Patching Up The DPC

Ben Steenhuisen
7 min readJun 14, 2021

Recently a lot of people have been discussing how the DPC is flawed, although mixed in with that discussion is a lot of bias towards or against specific teams — and a lot of people engaging in the conversation without understanding the core tenets of the reworked DPC system:

  • The International is supposed to be both representative (of all the regions) but highly skillful.
  • Consistent performance throughout the year is important
  • Cross-regional LAN events are the pinnacle of Dota 2 competition and should be respected and valued more heavily — however regional events are also important.

Instead of going through every way in which the DPC can be fixed, instead I will choose a few key topics and outline how I propose to fix them — however some specific details/numbers will be rough (and can be fixed in a subsequent balance patch!).

Patches and Qualifiers

Different regions had their open qualifiers at different times, most notably SEA had their Season 2 Open Qualifiers for Lower Division after the roster lock. Patches also came out soon after a major so teams didn’t have enough practice time before qualifiers. This has got to be fixed — specific regions shouldn’t be at disadvantage to others in flexibility to sign up.

Qualifiers were also inconsistent between regions, South America had a single qualifier (Single Elimination) where the top 4 teams were invited, and other regions had multiple SE qualifiers where two or more teams advancing from each. This is inconsistent and makes seeding very important, but all of them are bad formats: single elimination qualifiers should only allow 1 team to advance, and there should not be concurrent single elimination qualifiers.

As a result of this, patches need to be brought out at more reasonable times given the DPC — soon after majors (so teams can prepare for qualifiers), or right after all qualifiers end.

DPC League Format

The leagues are a bit too long, by around 1–1.5 weeks. The league could be compressed simply by not having Monday’s off. That’s the only change here I’d make — the plan was always for 3 majors a season so maybe after next season it’ll be clearer if more changes are required.

Another option would be to make the league a double-round-robin one where you play each other team twice — each series being a bo2.

There could be further discussions on promotion/relegation being a playoff, but that is a minor issue in my eyes.

The Major Format

Perhaps the most discussed topic recently is the format of the majors. The proposal I made after the Singapore Major is one I’m still happy with.

I would do the group stage as 18 team, 7 round Swiss group-stage, but take a leaf out of the old MTG Grand Prix book and give byes to highly performing qualifying teams:

  • regional winners (1st place) would be awarded 2 match byes
  • regional runner-ups (2nd place) would be awarded 1 match bye
  • the wildcards (3rd and 4th place teams) would have no byes

To be clear, this is not the same as “CS:GO Swiss” or any other Swiss that’s been tried in Dota 2 (like, the Kiev Major 2017) — it is ‘traditional’ Swiss. The byes actually reflect the difference in results in regional qualifiers which would differentiate 1st vs 2nd (often 1 series) or 2nd vs 3rd (also often 1 series).

Each match would be a bo2 match — with 1 point per game win. This keeps the schedule pretty compact (no long waits for a bo3 that goes to the 3rd game), and 5 DPC points can also be given out per game win. This rewards a strong group stage, and keeps stakes/incentives for every single win.

For the AniMajor, 6 days were used to run the Wildcards + Groups (what this Swiss system would replace), and this is still possible for 7-round Swiss. Day #1 is a compacted day for Rounds 1 + 2 (Round 1 is just 6 teams, so 3 series; and Round 2 is 12 teams, so 6 series). Each of the remaining 5 days is 1 round of Swiss, so teams are able to prepare overnight for their match.

The playoffs can be the same as they are now, top 8 are in the Upper Bracket, and next 4 are in the Lower Bracket. Swiss has way more powerful tiebreakers to differentiate between teams — and a wide possible score range (7 rounds, so 0 to 14 is possible as a score).

I would increase Major points allocated, but only slightly (remember there are extra points available for group stage wins).

Extra DPC Point Bonus

In addition to the increased points, I would retroactively reward regional league teams if that region goes on to perform very well at the major. This is to reward regions that have a high level of competition which limits attendance for some teams. This is also similar to UEFA’s national coefficient for determining how many teams per league make it to the Champion’s League (although in a more rapid manner), something updated every year.

The easiest way to measure regional performance is to count total teams from each region in the top 8, and apply a bonus as detailed below. The percentage based bonus is applied first, and then any flat bonuses are added (so you don’t get a % bonus on top of the flat bonuses).

This can also be iterated slightly to weigh top 4 / top 6 slightly heavier.

TI Regional Slots

This is mostly just a suggestion for the people who complain that “weak” and “undeserving” teams are able to go to TI because all the good teams in that region qualify directly. Like most of the suggestions in this article, it’s mutually exclusive with all the other ideas — I personally don’t think this is required however it solves what some consider a ‘problem’.

An overall weak region with just 2 “strong teams” might lead to the 3rd best team going to TI via regional qualifiers ahead of a more skilled team in another region.

A possible solution is to pre-allocate the TI slots based on region first (two per region) — and then fill up with the next highest scoring 6 teams. This means using data from the entire year of events building up to TI, instead of allowing teams to lose one qualifier and be out of TI contention. In some sense, so much data is collected on cross-regional play, it’s kinda wild to say “just have another qualifier bracket to determine the last slot per region” — although some people enjoy that massive variance and underdog run.

Based on the 2020/2021 Season, the invites per region would be:

  • SA: Beastcoast + Thunder Predator
  • NA: EG + Quincy
  • SEA: T1 + TNC
  • EU: Secret + Alliance
  • CIS: Virtus Pro + Team Spirit
  • China: LGD + IG

The remaining 6 slots would be: Vici, Aster, Nigma, NoPing, Neon, Fnatic.

In most cases this is exactly the same as the top 18 — however there are situations where this might not occur — for example if one region is super weak. Given the current system, the chance of a regional upset means that a team which barely participated in international events was able to make just a single upset and get into TI.

Team Ownership

This is an issue which was most discussed in NA, although issues did also occur in other regions. The person who created the team in the Major Registration interface was the ‘team owner’ and could remove people as they pleased. In some cases this was abusive — leading to players getting kicked. In other cases, it prevented abusive situations like where 3 players wanted to kick 2 players and keep the slot for themselves. Overall, this issue is complex and difficult to enforce by Valve alone. As a result, remaining flexible is key — and when creating a team the creator should be able to choose between different templates of team management (and changing between these templates requires unanimous agreement):

  • Owner Controller: the current system where the owner can kick anyone they wish. This is ideal for larger MGOs and orgs (like EG, Liquid, Secret, LGD, …) where the organization is able to manage players through contracts — so should be able to kick someone.
  • Democracy: a decision to kick someone or add someone needs > 50% of the team to be ratified. Can have an option to be core-only or include non-core members (i.e. the manager)
  • Supermajority: to kick someone you need approval from everyone except the kick target. To add someone, everyone needs to agree. Can have an option as for ‘Democracy’
  • Unkickable: a player cannot be kicked, but may voluntarily leave a team if they wish. This is ideal for teams forming where teammates don’t necessarily trust each other to not kick them.

All of these options should also suggest to players to get a written agreement with the other players (and/or org) to avoid unclear or unintended situations. It could even list some recommended esports-experienced lawyers who could be hired by players to create player agreement.

The International

In the past 6 TIs there’ve been 5 TI finalists who came in from regional qualifiers. In the past 3 TIs alone there’ve been 2 winners who came from regional qualifiers. This seems to suggest that the DPC is doing an okay job at deciding who ‘deserves’ to be at TI, but also that there’s a high risk of excluding very skilled TI-worthy teams. This can be addressed by having more teams at The International than we currently do (perhaps 20, up from 18), slightly shifting the balance between just-before-TI peak performance and year-long consistency.

Money

This is the simplest problem to solve. The International should not represent ~80%+ of the year’s prize pool for just 18 teams over 2 weeks. All prize pools for regional leagues should be increased by 50%+, and all majors should be doubled in prize pool. The money for this can be taken out of the TI war chest.

Cheers,

- Noxville

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Ben Steenhuisen

Dota 2 statsman and occasional caster | runs @datdota