26 Nov 08 in The Star: DotA on the rise

By IAN YEE

The Sendi Mutiara Multimedia Grand National DotA tournament was a huge success.

COMPUTER games have long been the bane of many a parent, and one of the biggest culprits would have to be the Warcraft custom scenario Defense of the Ancients, better known as DotA.

The highly addictive RPG (role-playing game) has had youngsters flooding cyber cafes over the last four or five years where they’d spend hours building up their characters, called Heroes, and battling each other in a strategy game-like map.

Of course, that would sound like trouble to most parents. But as of last weekend, it could also sound like a nice, melodious “ka-ching”.

We’re talking money. Lots and lots of money. The Sendi Mutiara Multimedia Grand National DotA Tournament (SGNDT) held last weekend at Berjaya Times Square gave away a whopping RM120,000 in prize money, a Malaysian record for a pro-gaming competition, to some of the best DotA teams in Asia.
Team Ehome from China emerged as champions of the SMM Grand National DotA Tournament, pocketing RM36,000 in cash along with other prizes.

Over 50 teams representing seven countries from as far as China and Russia, signed up to play for the huge payout, though the latter had to withdraw due to unsuccessful visa application.

A testament to how big a cash cow this tournament was is that internationally renowned names like China’s Ehome, global electronic sports organisation Fnatic as well as the famed PMS clan flew in for it.

With over 60 foreign individual players, the tournament also set another Malaysian record for the ‘Most International Participants in a Single Gaming Event’, as verified by the Malaysia Book of Records.

Records aside, the tournament was a huge step forward for the local pro-gaming community. Not only did it raise the bar in terms of how much teams can earn , it also provided a much needed boost, that our gamers are now of such a high standard, foreign teams are coming to our shores to take us on.

That makes it two Malaysia Book of Record entries, and two steps forward for local gamers. Now, that’s what we’d call a Double Kill.

Malaysia’s own DotA Hero

Dr Ricky Lim, president and CEO of Sendi Mutiara Multimedia, insisted that Malaysians had what it takes to be at the top of the international DotA community.

“Over the years, I’ve come to realise that the standard of Malaysian DotA teams isn’t very good. It’s extremely good! Team Kingsurf ( silver medallists at the worldwide Electronic Sports World Cup [ESWC] grand finals in California three months ago) proved that.

“So, we thought, instead of always going to other countries to play, why not we get players from the other countries to come to us?” he said.

And according to Ricky, local players were responding well to the challenge of playing against top class gaming teams.

“They haven’t been complaining at all! They’ve been saying ‘bring it on!’ and that’s the spirit we need. They’re not kiasu at all.”

In fact, Ricky believes the next step is to attract even more top teams to the annual competition, particularly by making it clear that gamers can make a healthy profit by playing in Malaysia.

“We want to make this a calendar event. We’ll try to increase the prize money each year, so that gamers in the region who are trying to earn money will come here,” he said.

“Next, we want to have American and European teams coming. They say they’re the best, so we want them to come here and prove it.”
Johor Baru-based Team Kingsurf, featuring players absorbed from ESWC gold medallists Team Zenith of Singapore, were one of the early favourites. Unfortunately, they lost to three foreign teams to claim fourth place.

Best of the best

But in terms of the best at the tournament, Team Kingsurf from Johor Baru were widely tipped as the pre-tournament favourites, particularly after they absorbed members from Team Zenith of Singapore, the team who beat them for the gold medal at ESWC.

Fnatic’s Indonesian DotA team was one of the favourites if only because of them being part of Fnatic, the Australia-based professional e-Sports organisation whose gamers have won numerous honours.

The two PMS (which stands for Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers) teams also attracted plenty of attention, for obvious reasons.

But in the end, it was Ehome, one of the best teams in China, who made the grand final along with Team Evo-xtc of Singapore.

And with plenty of DotA fans watching the match intently on large screens, the atmosphere was pretty intense. But in the end, it was Ehome who managed to deal Evo-xtc a killer blow, earning themselves RM36,000 in the process.

Even though the best Malaysian team, Kingsurf, only managed fourth place, Ehome’s captain Dong Can, aka Ehome DC, had some encouraging words for our boys.

“The Malaysian teams definitely have the ability, and they put us under a lot of pressure.

But we were really hoping to play Kingsurf in the final. We’d met them before and they’re a very good team. We even prepared special strategies on how to beat them before coming here!” said Dong.

Lee Vei Xiang, aka PapaXiong from Kingsurf, believes they had no one else but themselves to blame for the loss.

“I threw the game away. I shouldn’t have lost so early on but these things happen,” said the 18-year-old.

Bright future

The silver lining for our local gamers however, is that the quality of the competition, in terms of opponents, prize money and quality, are all improving.

“The event was very well-organised. There were many teams, and even then they managed to work out the schedules. It was a bit tight at times, but all in all, I think gaming competitions in China have a lot to learn from this. We don’t normally have as many participants, and we compete online most of the time. There are also very few competitions that give out more than US$10,000 (like SGNDT),” said Dong.

With teams up to 16th place winning at least RM100 in consolation prizes, and even the eighth placed team pocketing RM1,000 along with five Edifier iPod Speakers and five Warcraft Battlechests, the SGNDT is one of the most lucrative competitions in the region.

Fourth placed Kingsurf bagged RM5,000, five Seagate 120GB external hard drives and Silverstone Mouses, while the second and third placed teams got RM18,000 and RM10,000 respectively along with external hard drives and other gaming gear.

And still, Ricky promised during the closing ceremony to make the competition even more lucrative next year by bringing in more sponsors, inviting more foreign teams and spreading the gospel of DotA to even more young gamers.

Now that would be a Monster Kill.

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