eSports

Dota 2 vs League of Legends - Shoutcasting philosophies

If you ever want to incite a violent argument between nerds, ask whether Star Wars or Star Trek is the better universe. To create a similarly passionate fight to the death amongst the gaming community, ask whether Dota 2 or League of Legends is the better game. Sit down, grab a substantially large bowl of popcorn and watch phrases such as “casual pleb game” and “broken and unbalanced” get thrown around dripping with contempt and unveiled superiority.

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Whilst the differences between these two communities will probably never be resolved or handled in a civil manner, I’m taking quite a risk to compare these two games in a way that is rarely spoken about. Shoutcasting. As eSports continues in its pursuit of legitimacy, it’s important to take a step back and look to see if we’re heading in the right direction. Which leads me to make the dangerous decision of comparing shoutcasting standards between Dota 2  and LoL. Informal versus formal. Free spirited versus controlled.

Riot Games and shoutcasting

Riot hires its shoutcasters for its two leagues in America and Europe, namely NA LCS and EU LCS. Thus shoutcasters are full time Riot employees and as such are bound by company rules. Shoutcasters go through training, there are rehearsals before match day and a dress code of smart casual is evident, all of which creates a strictly professional environment in which casting happens.

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Casting itself also seems to have rules, with casters not swearing (minus the occasional slip which is promptly ignored) and casters are also reluctant to ever criticise Riot in any way, much to the chagrin of viewers in recent times. Any known bugs in games, or bad management decisions by Riot are glossed over or not even mentioned. In short, Riot runs a tight ship in the shoutcasting department and preparation is paramount in their approach.

Exclusivity is another key aspect of shoutcasting in LoL. No one other than Riot can stream their league games, thus you have to watch Riot’s official streams (either on Twitch, Azubu or YouTube) to watch games. This means only their casters can cast games, further increasing the control Riot has on pro games in Europe and America.

This format is similarly followed in other countries such as Korea and China, who both have their own domestic leagues, although I am admittedly not entirely sure of just how similarly things are run in China, so I stand corrected on that.

Dota 2 and shoutcasting

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The competitive landscape in Dota 2 is vastly different to LoL. Tournaments are all run independently of Valve, save for the The Internationals of course. Even then, for the qualifiers, anyone was able to stream the games, allowing various casting teams to cast the games.

Compared to LoL, Dota 2 has a much more lax standard when it comes to shoutcasting. Pro players who are not playing the match are sometimes brought in to cast, adding their knowledge to the games. Casters are dressed in a much more casual way. Casting styles are also a lot more varied, unlike LoL’s formula of paring a colour caster with a play-by-play caster.

What is better for eSports?

Now I know I’m going to rustle jimmies for saying this, but objectively speaking, Riot Games has the superior production by a long mile. The tradeoff for this quality is the high level of control that has all but killed tournaments that aren’t sanctioned by Riot. Pro players playing in Riot’s leagues are not allowed to play in other competitions without Riot’s permission.

Dota 2 on the other hand, thrives on having a wide variety of tournaments with teams getting to play whenever they want. International competitions are significantly more prominent in Dota 2 than LoL because of the lack of regulation and rules. The question is though, which environment is more beneficial for eSports overall?

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If eSports is gunning for mainstream acceptance and legitimacy, I think it is important that professionalism is encouraged and a higher standard is expected from shoutcasters. Sure it’s great watching casters having fun and not taking things too seriously, but for new viewers who often have no clue about how the game works, the casters have a duty to make them feel comfortable and teach them about the game.

Legitimacy means getting rid of some things because of expectations. You can’t expect people to take eSports seriously if your casters are wearing hoodies. Whilst many will depict Riot’s control over their scene as tyrannical and unhealthy for eSports, I think it is quite the opposite. Control means uniform quality and that is a trait that will take LoL far in the dream for mainstream acceptance.

Having said that, I do think a higher industry standard can be set without one company having to control everything. Dota 2 can have all its independent tournaments, but I think everyone needs to get on board the idea that professionalism is crucial to long term success. How long that’ll take with everyone doing their own thing is an important question. Too long in my opinion.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Dota 2 can achieve just as much success without having to ‘grow up’? Can eSports stay fun and still gain legitimacy? Let me know.

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