On Sunday the 19th of November 2017 at 15h00 Sinister5 and Goliath Gaming played against each other in the Mega8 Esports Pro16 Dota2 League. The match was streamed by the Mega8 Noob Stream on YouTube – you can view the VOD here. During the first game in the stream chat it was revealed that one of the Goliath Gaming players was an ex-xTc player who was potentially ineligible to play in this fixture. This article will outline what we know about what happened, and a discussion afterwards of why things happened as they did, while addressing what will need to be done in the future to prevent this sort of incident from occurring again.

The Curious Case of ex-xTc

For context to this story we need to quickly discuss the case of the ex-xTc Dota2 squad. This is a team who were playing in the Mega8 Esports Pro16 Dota2 League as xTc Esports. Two weeks ago they announced that they were leaving xTc Esports to join LeetPro. Due to changing MGOs mid-tournament it was unclear if the players could continue playing or not. Mega8 Esports finally released a statement (dated 17 November) clarifying the issue that you can read in full here. To quote it says:

After XTC announced it is releasing its Dota 2 team , Mega8 has removed xTc from the Mega8 Dota 2 Pro 16 League as they are unable to field a team. It is our understanding that the xTc players made a conscious decision to leave the team during the league, and as such, they will not be able to play for any other team in the Mega8 Dota 2 Pro 16 League, nor will they be able to enter as a new team to replace xTc.

They are welcome to take part in any further Mega8 competitions in the future.

A round 3 Mega8 Esports Pro16 League match between xTc Esports and Exdee Gaming, prior to this Dota2 team leaving the xTc Esports organization.

Goliath Gaming use “Mental

Now let’s move on to the match in question between Sinister5 and Goliath Gaming on Sunday the 19th of November. During the match in stream it was alleged that Goliath Gaming were using an ex-xTc player. In this match the player in question was using the ingame name “BlyaT_ContRoL” but in the stream chat it was suggested that this player was in fact “Mental” (the same player who played for the ex-xTc Gaming Dota2 team). You can view the player’s steam profile here and the player’s DotaBuff here. What is important to note that his other alias for the steam account STEAM_0:1:79248931 is in fact both “BlyaT_ContRoL” as well as “Mental.” This suggests pretty strongly that they’re the same steam account and thus, the exact same player. This is all research I did around the time of the match in an attempt to independently verify the growing suspicions that this player was one of the ex-xTc players in question. It is also important to state that “BlyaT_ContRoL“, or “Mental“, were being used as a last minute stand-in by Goliath Gaming for this particular match.

Now if we assume for a moment that this is correct, then that would mean the Goliath Gaming used a player who Mega8 Esports had specifically said, “will not be able to play for any other team in the Mega8 Dota 2 Pro 16 League, nor will they be able to enter as a new team to replace xTc.” In other words, these specific players would be ineligible to play for Goliath Gaming at the time of the match. Later on Sunday Goliath Gaming released a statement that you can read here. I’ve also posted a screenshot. I’ll quote the important bit here:

We were unaware of the website post shared by Mega8 on Friday, 17 November, stating that ex-xTC players would not be allowed to participate in Mega8 games going forward and, unfortunately, we did indeed have an ex-xTC player subbing in for us during today’s game. We are looking into the matter. At no point (from the time the game started) was this brought to Goliath Gaming’s attention.

In this post Goliath Gaming admit to A) using the player in question (Mental/BlyaT_ContRoL) for the match in question, B) not knowing that the player was ineligible to participate. To their credit Goliath Gaming forfeited the rest of the series once this issue was brought to light, even though by the second game Goliath Gaming had lined up another sub, widely known as “Bluecat“, who was going to be used for both games but according to our sources could not make the first match. This would have been an eligible substitute under the Mega8 announcement.

Discussion and opinions

At this point there is no doubt about an ineligible ex-xTc player being used by Goliath Gaming in a Mega8 Esports Pro16 Dota League fixture. The only questions that really remain pertain to how this happened. Why did Goliath Gaming not know about the ruling? Why did the ex-xTc player in question not know about the ruling? Why did the Dota2 players participating in the match not know about the ruling? Why weren’t the casters (who aren’t paid for the noob cast) joined by a Mega8 representative in the lobby? Why did it take a random stream chat to reveal this issue? At the time of writing I’ve not seen any statement from Mega8 on the issue. Mega8 did share the article in question via their social media, but when I investigated further no teams were specifically linked in those announcements. It isn’t clear if personal phone calls, emails, or any other direct notification system was used by Mega8 to alert teams and players of these changes. It is clear now that that sort of direct contact is a critical step in the process. Ultimately this is going to land at Mega8’s door, but everyone involved had a hand in this incident to varying degrees.

The Mega8 Esports Announcement via their Facebook Page

The Mega8 ruleset (available here) doesn’t help clarify the issue either, as no real specific mention is made of any of these changes or how notification works. I’m sure Mega8 will clarify their stance on this shortly, so please keep an eye out for that. We’ll update as we get more information.

It is, however, my personal feeling that professional players and/or all participating organizations (the TO included) carries some responsibility here. Ignorance doesn’t excuse what occurred especially since this was an active issue in the scene for over two weeks. Yet it is fair to point out that in this specific instance everything is so muddled that not much beyond the facts are clear right now. Everyone needs to take a step back and really take stock of what needs to be done to fix this problem, and avoid ones like it in the future. It’s vital a conversation happens about lines of communication that will avoid this conflict in the future, which is critical for the success of Dota2 in South African esports.

Comments by Goliath Gaming, Sinister5, and Mega8

We approached the parties involved in this issue and gave them some time to provide comments. Here is the Goliath Gaming comment:

From GG’s side, we feel that formal communication (on notices and updates for tournaments etc.) should be sent to ALL players/captains/MGO’s via email as and when updates/decisions are made – so that it is on record somewhere. Posting something onto a website and sharing the link to social media (where algorithms choose what is seen/not seen by people) is not a strong enough means of communication – there are way too many opportunities for people to miss it this way.

Sinister5 had this to say:

While we were playing the first game, a lot of people started messaging our players, that GG is using an illegal player. So at the break before the second game, our captain asked them, why are they using an illegal player. They asked if we were happy to play a second. My players asked me and I decided to let them play and leave it up to the tournament organizers to decide what action must be taken. However shortly after that, GG decided to forfeit.

By the time of releasing this article Mega8 had not responded to our request for comment. They did provide us with a comment after the fact, on Wednesday 22nd November, which reads as:

1) Notifying teams of banned players.

Mega8 will notify teams in future of players who not able to play in a competition for whatever reason. With regards to the Goliath Gaming vs Sin5 match, we are engaging with the teams on the matter.

2) With regards to the admin issue checking players before matches.

Volumes of teams and players vs. number of admins, together with the fact that players can change names and even accounts make this a difficult area to manage. We will engage the teams and the other tournament providers on the issue and look for ways to improve on the situation.

A Statement by the Author

The sole purpose behind publishing this article, and asking any questions over the course of the past few days, has been in an effort to uncover the truth, as it is in the interest of the Dota 2 community to know the true state of affairs. This is especially true in relatively high profile competitions.