Interview with Lyrical: Caster for Dota 2's The International 7

Sitting down to chat with a play-by-play caster for Dota 2s TI7 -- Gabe 'Lyrical' Cruz.

The Dota 2 International 2017 finals are almost upon us. The Seattle stage is set, the teams are beginning to arrive, and the fight for the $22 million prize pool is on.

Viewers from around the world will be tuning into live streams of the tournament, so it is imperative that the live streams replicate the excitement and intensity of attending the live event. Therefore, passionate and interesting commentators and streamers are a must for broadcasting the show.

Enter Gabriel ‘Lyrical’ Cruz. Gabriel is an English language Dota 2 caster from the United States, and this will be his first time ever working at a TI event. To say he is excited is an understatement.

Iain Fenton, Journalist for CompareLotto got the chance to chat with Lyrical in a pre-TI interview, and discuss how excited he is to be working on one of the biggest tournaments in eSports history, who he thinks will take home the grand prize, and even whether or not eSports can sustain its current level of popularity.

Iain Fenton: Firstly, how excited are you about TI7?

Lyrical: "I'm incredibly excited for TI7! It still doesn't seem real to me that I was invited and I have a feeling it won't until I am actually at the event and working it. But even if I wasn't invited TI is an incredibly special time of the year. I wrote a blog about this last year when I attended as a guest but for that week of the main event Key Arena and the surrounding area becomes like a Dota 2 amusement park. It's gives you a feeling of community like a big ol' bubble was placed over the area and everyone inside of it shares your interests. Not a very common thing for a gamer, but it's a huge part of what makes TI special."

IF: So the prize money this year is the largest for any sports tournament ever. How have Dota 2 and its eSports scene evolved from last year?

L: It's tough to say for me with regards to eSports as a whole. I don't keep as close of an eye on them except for the headlines. As far as Dota 2 is concerned there have been pretty monumental changes. In the casual gamer's experience we have had patch 7.00 come out, which fundamentally changed so many parts of the game. Dropping down to two majors and now the news that there will be a minor’s system implemented has altered and will continue to alter team’s choice of tournaments to attend.

The decrease in the number of majors has also opened the door for more third party tournaments to enter the scene. Overall the message from Valve seems to be the same that it was 2 years ago when we got Dota 2 Reborn, they want the game and the scene to thrive and they want that to happen via community feedback and iteration.

IF: Do you think Dota 2 has now caught up to League of Legends in terms of popularity?

L: "I don't know, I think comparing Dota and League is really tough because there are just so many different factors to consider. Popularity is sort of a tough word to compare the two as well.

I'll admit I'm not the most well versed in LoL's player base, but I know that Dota 2 has some of the most fickle players. I remember a few different articles that were released comparing popular games' fan bases and their other gaming habits, and Dota had one of the few groups of fans who basically didn't play any other games.

Also comparing the fan contribution to each game's respective prize pool... Worlds last year received 3 million if I am not mistaken, whereas Dota received around 19 million. There are other factors that might play into this, but I would guess Dota has more die-hard fans, whereas LoL has the higher player base on aggregate."

IF: What audience numbers do you expect at the event? And how many do you think will be watching online?

L: "I'm never really sure with this. I think it depends a lot on the teams that get through. The venue will be sold out; it always is, but there will be a lot of people watching on the jumbotrons outside as well so probably we will get to around 20-22 thousand live, maybe more.

Online viewership -- no idea."

IF: What will be your main role in the event?

L: "I'll be doing play-by-play casting."

IF: How do you get yourself ready to commentate/stream? Is it very natural for you or do you take the time out to do a lot of preparation beforehand?

L: "Streaming on my own channel is much more casual, so my only prep is getting giant vessels of coffee and water. Prepping for an event or a cast is an entirely different manner. I usually do practice casts of previous events either on my channel or off air with a local recording, then I'll listen back and take notes on things I want to change.

For team prep I've got a few different notebooks with a page or two per player and coach that lists recent heroes, former teams, former teammates, recent pub heroes played, and usually one or two notes that I find interesting in my research.

Besides that, just playing Dota whenever I get a chance. Since the game is so complex and there are an almost limitless variety of ways to play different heroes, you just need to feel out what’s good by playing it.

IF: How competitive do you think it is going to be this year? Is there a standout team already?

L: "This year is going to be incredibly competitive. All of the top teams now are getting to the stage where the differences in mechanical skill are negligible. It has felt for a while now that what determines success is team chemistry and decision-making in-game.

With that said, if you have absurd talent AND chemistry you will probably take the win and that's why I'm picking VP. If you look at what they did at The Summit picking a different hero EVERY game until the finals that’s got to give you some insane confidence. Plus, they are hungry for it. I think the other team that I expect to see in the finals with them is EG and they are a really similar story of talent and chemistry."

IF: The prize for first place is obviously phenomenal. Did you ever think eSports would become this big? Can it sustain this level?

L: "I never thought eSports would become this big mostly because I didn't imagine the connective power of the internet. I think most gamers to some extent feel like, or at least when I was growing up felt like, they were on the outside looking in. To see that in fact that's not the case and instead we have built a community that supports each other is amazing and I don't think it's going anywhere.

Whether it is Dota or some other game, I think it's here to stay.

IF: What kind of mentality does a champion Dota 2 player need? How important is it that the team get on with each other 100%? Do you think problems can arise if a team is made up of different nationalities?

L: "I think there have been a lot of different models for successful teams. Some run well with absolute compliance and a captain with an iron fist. Others take a holistic approach where everyone speaks their minds. Really it depends on the players to buy into whatever system is in place.

To me the most important quality a Dota 2 champion needs is the ability to build consensus and move on from whatever happened before be in the now and play your best. I don't think nationality has anything to do with team success at all. OG has a French coach and players from Denmark, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Israel -- and they have been the most successful Dota 2 team of the last year."

IF: Who are you backing to win? And who would you say is the dark horses to take the title? What kind of glory awaits the winning team?

L: "Like I said before, I'm taking VP as the winners. I don't have a dark horse to take the title. I think one of the OG, VP, EG, Liquid, Newbee will for sure win it, and none of those teams can really be classified as a dark horse. I will take LFY to go further than most of the public would expect -- I think that team is quite good.

As far as glory, it's TI and the Aegis -- there isn't a bigger trophy in eSports."

I'd like to thank Lyrical for taking the time to chat with me. To get a deeper look at his casting and Dota 2 play, check out his Twitch channel or follow him on Twitter @LyricalDota.

Be sure to check back with GameSkinny for more news about the Dota 2 TI7 as it gets underway!

Published Aug. 3rd 2017

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