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    Cover Story: eSports Leagues

    Having all this time at home makes many more things possible for us. Some people have taken to clearing their backlog of shows, others have picked up a new hobby, and others still have chosen to sleep the whole thing away. There are those however, who have taken the time to dust off phones, tablets, consoles and CPUS to catch up on their gaming. Why not? Nobody cares if you don’t leave the house, make contact with the outside world, or even leave your room. It’s hard to imagine anyone not picking up a game or two over the period of these few months, and this CoverStory is for them. If you want to get in on the action, or are curious about what people are playing, this is just the story for you.

    OVERWATCH LEAGUE

    It has been a long time since an FPS has taken the attention of the world the way Overwatch has. This is due to a combination of factors, from a cleverly designed game, a strong push from Blizzard, and in no small part, the Overwatch League.

    The Overwatch League (OWL) is the pro Overwatch league, featuring 20 teams from all over the globe. Teams in the OWL league are handled just like any other esports team, with sponsorships, training schedules, a competitive season, and matches cast over the Internet. Teams have their own rabid fanbases, with the best players getting their own share of internet attention and fame. If you’re new to the game, or are interested in getting a little more info on the league, some of the teams, and the players, grab a drink, because we’re going in.

    Overwatch was a hotly anticipated title when it was first announced over three years ago. Though it isn’t the first to try the concept, Overwatch gives players the ability to choose heroes with a particular set of skills, successfully combining the MoBA and Shooter genres in a single, brightly colored, high-action title. Where other FPS games usually have characters that are essentially only different cosmetically, Overwatch’s ace was the diversity of its character pool in abilities, looks, story, and function. Coupled with a wide selection of game modes, maps, and seasonal events, the game has been a massive global hit. The League was then announced at Blizzard’s annual Blizzcon in 2016.

    The Overwatch League features players at the top levels of play. While a simple game on the surface, the title does require a lot of fast, high-level thinking. There are ability cooldowns, and skill economies to manage, positioning to consider, and team strategy. The League doesn’t only aim to highlight the individual players’ skill, as the most successful teams effectively combine individual talent with great team play. Many of these pros were top-tier players in other titles as well, carrying over the gamesense that made them successful in other titles such as CS:GO. Owners of the OWL team include the expected eport-dedicated ventures, along with sports-team owners, private investors, investment groups, media companies, and even a Chinese video sharing website.

    Watching an OWL match is much like spectating any other sporting event. There are certain plays, tactics, and counters to watch out for, and seeing how teams execute their strategies and adapt to their opponents’ tactics is what makes the OWL a great spectacle. The 2020 season spans 26 weeks, with matches played on weekends, including two matches against every in-conference opponent, as well as one match against every out-of-conference team. There is then a double-elimination bracket consisting of the top 6 seeds, and two teams that make it from a post-season play-in tournament of lower-seeded teams. The finals is a single elimination match between the two teams who top the double elimination brackets.

    Matches are simple. Games are played in a best-of-five format, with a random selection of maps for each of the game types. The first team to get three victories wins the match, and teams are given a break after every two matches to strategize, swap players, and reassess their approach. Draws are possible, and don’t count as a win for either team.

    As with any sports franchise, there are teams that are great to watch, as they tend to put on a superb show. The 2020 season has its share of these teams, and one of the most dominant is the Shanghai Dragons. With impressive individual skill from their players, and a strong 14-2 standing, the Dragons have made their presence known in the Pacific division of the league. Stars such as Lip and Fleta bring the DPS, while LeeJaeGon brings the healing in with his superb Lucio plays.

    In the Atlantic Division, One of the most dominant teams remains Philadelphia Fusion. With consistent plays and a massive 13-1 record as of this writing, they are strong favorites in this year’s league. It doesn’t hurt that they have one of the strongest DPS players in OWL right now in the form of team captain Carpe, and multiple-time world number 1 FunnyAstro. So dominant is the team that a premiere-level esports arena is getting put up in the team’s name in the Philadelphia Sports Complex, further blurring the line between “regular” sports and esports.

    The League has live broadcasts of their games on weekends, through either an app or straight on YouTube, complete with commentators and analysts to help make sense of all the action going on on-screen. Just like in conventional sporting events, these people play the games themselves, and also cast for a living, giving them the experience to competently discuss split-second decisions, tactics, and team compositions.

    MULTIPLAYER ONLINE BATTLE ARENAS

    Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas or MOBAs are the most popular esports genre. The genre blew in popularity thanks to a custom game on Blizzard’s Real-Time Strategy game Warcraft 3 called Defense of The Ancients or Dota. MOBAs are played with two teams often composed of five players each.

    The objective of MOBAs is simple: destroy the other team’s central tower. But between you and the enemy’s base are five other players and their heroes who have their own unique abilities. MOBAs will often rely on team play rather than a single player doing well as the opposing team will simply burst the other carry down.

    Most MOBA plays on a single map, with three lanes of fighting. Separating the lane is usually the “jungle” which is filled with neutral objectives that aid players by giving gold and XP which they can use to level and buy items. Other games, such as League of Legends, neutral creeps add buffs to the champions which are vital to win the game.

    To establish great teamwork, MOBAs have dedicated roles for players, each fulfilling a specific role for the team. These roles vary per game, what’s common is the two core heroes often the mid lane hero and the bottom lane hero. These two roles would be given the most resources around the map, with the mid lane usually being focused in the early stages of the game and playing around the carry in the later stages.

    In the country, there are three current MOBA titles you should know about. These are Dota 2, League of Legends, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Here we give the things you need to know if you want to try taking up these games.

    Dota 2

    Dota 2 is the successor to the highly successful Warcraft 3 mod Defense of the Ancients or Dota. Dota 2 developer Valve initially revealed the game to the public in Gamescom 2011, where they held the first The International tournament to commemorate the game. The International 1, as it will be later called, was the first-ever million-dollar tournament in esports history with CIS team Natus Vincere taking home the USD 1 million grand prize. The game would only be officially launched in July 2013, a month before the third The International.

    In order to create a one for one port of the Dota mod, Valve hired the last Dota mod developer IceFrog, much to the delight of fans all around the world. The gameplay of Dota 2 largely remains the same with its predecessor. Team roles remained largely unchanged with the mid lane and carry still holding the major role of damage dealer.

    Dota 2 is played with five players each playing a different role: the position one or the hard carry is the player who will deal the most damage to the enemy. Teams usually pool most of their resources to this player to activate him as early as possible. The position two or the mid laner is the player who plays the mid lane and is usually the early game carry. Teams typically leave this player to fend for himself early to grab as much XP as possible. When the mid laner reaches a certain level (usually six) and gets his last skill, he roams the map finding kills or helps gank to gain tempo for his team. The position three or the off-laner, is the player who plays the off-lane or the lane opposite the enemy’s carry. This position is typically the initiator for the team or the tanky frontliner. The position four or roaming support is a support player that provides gank opportunities around the map. And lastly, the position five or hard support is the main support player whose main role is to provide vision around the map and support his team’s carry. These guys are usually the team captain as they keep track of their team’s resources as well as the other team’s resources and coordinate plays around those.
    Most important Tournament/s: Dota 2 Pro Circuit, The International

    If you want to start following the Dota 2 scene there are two things you need to know about, the Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) and the International. Created just last 2017, the DPC is the official tournament for Dota 2, each season certain tournaments are determined by Valve to become a major or minor. These Major and Minor tournaments have a certain amount of prize money and a certain amount of DPC point to be given away to participating teams. The top eight teams with the highest DPC points earn automatic invites to Dota 2’s most prestigious tournament, The International.

    The International (TI) is one of esports biggest tournaments. Since its creation in 2011, The International has become a landmark in esports due to the number of viewers and the prize money it offers. The International currently holds the largest prize pool in history with the last International having a whopping USD 34 million prize pool.

    As one of the largest tournament in esports, The International invites only the best team around the world. 18 of the best teams who either have been invited via the DPC or qualified through the regional qualifiers face each other for the largest prize pool in esports. The tournament is divided into two stages: the group stage, and the main stage. During the group stage, the 18 teams are drawn into two groups, there they face each other in a best-of-two round-robin format. The top four teams from each group will advance to the upper bracket of the main stage, fifth to eighth-placed teams are placed in the lower bracket while the bottom teams are eliminated.

    Lower bracket teams face a hard time in the main stage will all of their games a do-or-die for tournament lives. The upper bracket on the other hand has a luxury of the safety net of the lower bracket something like a second life in the tournament. The first round of the lower bracket is best-of-ones with the losing team automatically eliminated. The rest of the tournament is best of threes except for the finals which are played in a best-of-five.

    Team/s to note: OG, TNC Predator

    It’s a no brainer why OG is one of the teams you need to follow in the Dota 2 scene. They are the most successful team in Dota 2 history becoming the first team to win TI twice and doing it in back to back years as well. While the team may not feature the roster that won it all in 2018 and 2019, the current roster does have some of the biggest names in Dota 2 becoming a super team to watch out in the DPC.
    Another team to note is our very own TNC Predator. TNC Predator is one of the best teams not only in the SEA region but globally as well. In fact, the team is currently first in the DPC ladder after winning the first major of the season and having a great placement in the second major as well. Historically, TNC introduced themselves to the world stage by eliminating the then OG roster in the International 2016. OG were favorites to win it all that year, winning two of three major of the year.

    Player/s to know: N0tail, Abed, ana

    A player to note in Dota 2 is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein OG’s captain who led the team to two TI wins. N0tail founded OG back in 2015 and has stuck with the team he built through different iteration. A team player above all, he has played multiple roles in OG from carry to now the captain in a support role.

    Abed “Abed” Yusop is a local hero in Dota 2. As a country obsessed with Dota, Abed was a standout among the young Filipino prodigies. Abed plays the mid lane role and has played with teams both locally and internationally. Abed is also the first player in the world to reach 10k Match Making Rating (MMR) or the highest-ranked player in the game. Abed currently plays for storied North American team Evil Geniuses and has produced great results for the team in the current DPC.
    Anathan “ana” Pham has cemented himself as one of the best carries in Dota 2 after carrying OG to two TI wins. Ana was OG’s trump card in their comeback win in the 2018 TI finals and provided a great backbone to the team during their title defense in 2019. A testament to Ana’s skill is his vast hero pool, in 2019 Ana carried the team with his IO carry a hero usually played as support.

    Match to watch: OG vs PSG.LGD The International 2018 finals

    If you’re a Dota 2 nut chances are you’ve already heard of the grueling finals between OG and PSG.LGD. Prior to going into that year’s The International, OG was in shambles, the team had to go into a rough rebuild in three months before the tournament started and had to field in untested players. OG struggled during the group stage before finding their grove and a surprising finals appearance. PSG.LGD on the other hand were favorites going into the tournament.

    OG had a winning momentum on their side after sending PSG.LGD to the lower bracket finals during the upper bracket finals. PSG.LGD meanwhile demolished EG in lower bracket finals to set up the grudge match most fans expected to see. The International 2018 finals would be the match that cemented OG’s legacy as one of the greatest teams in esports history after overcoming a two-game deficit. It was an amazing back and forth and the stage for some of the best plays in Dota 2 history.

    League of Legends

    League of Legends is one of the most played video games in the world. In 2019, the game reached 8 million concurrent players around the world. League of Legends was created back in 2009 by Riot Games. The game is the brainchild of Riot co-found Marc “Tryndamere” Merill, Brandon “Ryze” Beck, and one the contributing developers of the Warcraft 3 Dota mod, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak.

    League gameplay is a combination of personal mechanics and well-coordinated team play. Unlike Dota and Dota 2, champions in LoL rely heavily on players landing their skills instead of point and click abilities. Another thing that LoL has is more contestable objectives in the map’s jungle. Jungle objective such as Baron and the Drakes give players so much advantage that team fights always tend to happen when trying to secure it.

    League of Legends roles are a bit different from Dota 2. There the mid lane, carry, and support have the role, but also features a unique Jungle role who roams the jungle part of the map and moves around the three different lanes to enable his teammates by ganking their opponents. The top laner in League also has a different role and depending on the champion his/her is playing may be the initiator, frontliner, or even the third carry of the team.
    Most important tournament/s: MSI, Worlds

    There are two important international tournaments for League of Legends, the Mid-Season Invitational or MSI and the League of Legends World Championships more commonly known as Worlds. MSI is typically played around May when most of the leagues finish their spring split. Riot invites the 13 winners of the spring split from each of its regional leagues. MSI is divided into three different stages, the Play-in stage wherein minor regions compete to be one of three teams to be invited to the main stage. The main group stage where the top regions plus the winners of the play-in stage fight to determine the top four via a double round-robin of best of one game. And finally, the playoffs where the top four teams compete to see who’s the best team and region for the first half of the season.

    MSI stand-ins have a huge impact on determining the placement each region has for Worlds. Poor performing regions will have lesser slots in the main stage, while the best performing region will have all their teams starting in the group stage.

    Worlds is the biggest annual tournament not just for League of Legends, but for the rest of the esports scene. The annual tournament has broken viewership records year after year, with last year’s edition peaking at over 3.9 million unique viewers. Worlds invite 24 teams around the world for a chance to become League’s next champion. Unlike MSI, Worlds invites not only the champion for the summer split but also the teams which have consistently performed well in regions and have earned the highest championship point throughout the year. Worlds also hold regional qualifiers for the major regions China, Korea, Europe, North America, and Taiwan and Macau to determine each region’s third-seeded wild card team.

    Like MSI, Worlds has three stages, the play-in wherein minor regions and some of the major regions’ third seed fight for a slot in the group stage the four teams with the best record will move on to the main stage. For the group stage, 16 teams divided is divided into four different groups, the teams will compete in a double round-robin best of ones games against in their group with the top two teams moving on to the competition. Lastly, the play-off, the eight best teams will be drawn once again to determine the final tournament bracket and determine who fights who. Teams in the playoffs face each other in do-or-die best of five series even until the finals.

    Teams to note: T1, G2, FPX

    League of Legends has one of the most storied history in esports. As the world’s most-played esports title, League of Legends has produced some of the best teams in esports. One of the teams you need to know is three-time world champion T1 who won the title in 2013, 2015, and 2016.

    Another team to note is the first-ever western super team G2 that won the Mid-Season Invitational in 2019 and earned second place in Worlds 2019. G2 eliminated T1 two times in 2019, one during the MSI semi-finals, the other during the world championship’s semi-finals. The team was also the favorite to win World 2019 facing against Chinese team FPX.

    The last team to note is FunPlus Phoenix or FPX. FPX is the reigning League of Legends world champion. FPX was the Chinese league champion before going into Worlds last year. Prior to winning their region’s summer split, FPX was a relative mid-tier team but changes in their roster and unique playstyle propelled them to the Worlds finals. FPX was the heavy underdog against G2 in the finals, but their own aggressive playstyle caught the Europeans by surprise and lead them to a clean 3-0 sweep for the World championship.

    Player/s to know: Faker

    When it comes to League of Legends you need to know the game’s living legend, Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok. Faker is the mid laner for T1 and was one of the major reasons for the team’s success. Faker joined then SKT T1’s second team in 2013 and quickly earned a reputation as one of Korea’s best mid laner with his mechanic prowess. He would lead T1 to their first world championship in his rookie year. After a rebuild in 2014, Faker and the rest of SKT T1 would win their second Worlds in 2015 and become the only team in League of Legend’s history to win worlds back-to-back after winning once again in 2016 cementing T1’s dynasty in League of Legends. To know how good Faker is you need to watch his 1 v 1 against Ryu “Ryu” Sang-Wook in the OGN Summer 2013 finals.

    Match to watch: SKT T1 vs Rox Tigers Worlds 2016 semi-finals.

    One of the best series in League of Legends history was definitely the semi-finals between SKT T1 and Rox Tigers during the 2016 World Championship. Rox and SKT finished one and two respectively in their regional tournament before going to Worlds. Everyone expected the two to meet in the finals but due to the tournament format and group seeding the two met a little bit earlier than most expected.

    Despite playing in the tournament’s semi-finals, the two teams still played a series of their lives to qualify for the finals. This gave League fans one of the best series of all time with both teams giving their all and pushing the series to a game five.

    Mobile Legends: Bang Bang

    Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is a MOBA specially created for mobile gamers. The game first hit iOS and Android devices back in 2016 and has become one of the most popular games from both app stores. As of writing the game already has 100 million downloads in the Google PlayStore. Mobile Legends has a massive following in the Southeast Asia region and has dedicated leagues in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia/Singapore, and Myanmar.

    Mobile Legends gameplay is similar to League of Legends with both prioritizing hitting abilities rather than point and click which is difficult to implement in a mobile setting. Roles in ML is a bit similar with the rest of the MOBAs here. The gameplay is also faster in ML since the map size a bit smaller and players earning gold despite not last hitting neutral creeps. One reason why the game is so popular is the pace of gameplay, where you can sneak some game time while on transit or during your coffee breaks.

    Most important tournament/s: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Pro League, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang World Championship, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup
    There are three tournaments to note for Mobile Legends, the regional Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Pro League (MPL), the regional championship or Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup (MSC), and the recently established Mobile Legends: Bang Bang World Championship otherwise known as M1.

    MPL are country-based leagues for Mobile Legends. In the Philippines there are ten team competing in the MPL, eight of these teams were the top eight from the previous while the remaining two are newer teams who have qualified from the open tournament. The regular season lasts for six weeks with teams facing each other in a double round-robin best-of-three matches. The top four teams will earn a spot in the upper bracket in the playoffs while the fifth to eighth teams are seeded in the lower bracket.

    MSC is Southeast Asia’s regional championship. The MSC served as the biggest international competition for Mobile Legends prior to M1 since the SEA region has the game’s largest player based. 12 teams from the region are invited to participate in the competition, two from the countries with established MPLs: Indonesia, Malaysia/Singapore, Myanmar, and the Philippines while the rest of the countries were only allotted a single slot. There are three stages in the tournament, the group stage to determine placements, the play-in stage where the bottom two teams from their groups fight for a spot in the playoffs, and lastly the playoff bracket with an upper and lower division.

    And lastly the newly established MLBB World Championship. The MLBB World Championship was only established last year and featured 16 of the best teams from around the world. Just like the MSC Moontoon invited the winners and runner ups from the four established MPLs to compete. The tournament had two stages, the group stage where the top two teams from groups moved on to the playoffs. In the playoffs, the top teams from the groups earned an upper bracket spot while the second seeds faced the long road in the lower bracket.

    Teams to note: Evos Legends

    Mobile Legends is a fairly new esports title and very regional centric at the moment. But to learn the best way to play, you definitely need to watch out for the M1 champs Evos Legends from Indonesia.

    Match to watch: Philippines vs Indonesia 30th SEA Games Finals

    As one of the selected games for the 30th Southeast Asian Games’ esports tournament, ML has enjoyed a privileged only a select title enjoys such as being named a medal event for an international sporting event. The Philippines’ Sibol ML team were among the favorites going to the tournament simply because it was an all-star team, so when the team met regional rival Indonesia’s all-star team in the finals what transpired maybe one of the most intense ML games you could watch.

    Words by the Gadgets Team
    Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE June 2020 issue

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