ESL and subsidy DreamHack have changed the rules governing their tiebreakers in the DPC twice in the past 24 hours.

After a flurry of criticism, ESL and DreamHack have walked back a controversial and sudden change in their DPC tiebreaker rules. The changes were reported to teams this morning (April 21th) following a night of uncertainty.

Previously, the surprise change to the tiebreaker rules had been slammed by players and community members. Most damningly, Liquipedia, an independent community-run resource for tournaments, removed ESL and DreamHack's DPC events from the site. Perfect World's event was also removed for similar reasons.

Events submitted to Liquipedia are required to have clearly stated rules as part of their submission. As explained in a post on Reddit, two main rules were broken:

  • Rules should make it clear how the event will work in its entirety.
  • Tournament organizers must not change rules as the event is ongoing.

The changing of DPC tiebreaker rules at the last moment in effect violated these policies, prompting mods of Liquipedia to remove the events. As a result, fans, players, and anyone who wanted to look at scores for these three DPC regions couldn't do so. Although results were still available on the (oft forgotten) official Dota 2 schedule site. This has inevitably caused mass confusion. Until this morning when the tiebreaker rules were changed back

How the tiebreaker changes affected things

With the majority of DPC Tour 2’s wrapped up yesterday (April 20th), there were several ties in the standings. Notably between OG and Gaimin Gladiators, Team Liquid and Tundra Esports, and Entity and Brame. This means the majority of the WEU DPC league was locked in a tie.

Under the previously published rules, no tiebreakers would be played among Major-qualified teams. Rather, you’d use head-to-head score to determine winners. This was because tiebreakers were not played when there was no separation between Major qualification.

However, yesterday DreamLeague (the tournament run by DreamHack, an ESL subsidiary), announced that there would be tiebreakers played between Tundra and Liquid, and OG and Gaimin. This mean players had to cancel travel plans, media, and other commitments to play another set of games after the season had ended.

Instead, after a troubled night of sleep, expecting to wake up and play games that could make or lose them thousands of dollars, players woke up to news that all this had been reverted.

Why is this an issue?

It’s simple enough: Teams expect to and should adhere to the same set of rules throughout a tournament. If this issue wasn’t tiebreakers, but instead the number of games played in the DPC or playoff format (admittedly all things that have been altered after the fact in Dota 2 before), there would be even more uproar. 

It is incredibly worrying that it falls to Liquipedia to be the arbiters of competitive integrity. But with Valve’s laissez-faire approach to the scene, it comes down to tournament organizers to uphold this integrity. Organizers whose motivations are sometimes not purely to run a good tournament. After all, the viewership on any surprise, high-stakes tiebreaker between WEU’s best teams would surely be high. It’s hard not to be cynical about the motivations of ESL and Dreamhack when it seems like they were trying to squeeze a few more series of Dota out of the teams.

Overall, this will go down in the books as another case of Valve’s hands-off approach creating confusion, discomfort, and frustration for its most prominent players. But this isn’t the first time. And unless something changes drastically in the structure of competitive Dota 2, it won’t be the last.