Former OG captain and two-time The International (TI) champion Johan "N0tail" Sundstein recently shared his thoughts on the professional Dota 2 landscape in a podcast, saying that it was "hard to have a life next to [Dota 2]" and that competing at the highest level was "too stressful" and "unhealthy".
"The competition basically asks for all of your time, so you need to be ready to sacrifice all your time. If you're not the best, if your peak, your talent, and whatever else you have is not good enough, then the only thing you can do is work harder," said N0tail in the Monkey Business podcast on 11 Jan.
"It's asking for so many more days, so many more hours than it did in previous years. For people like [Team Secret captain Clement "Puppey" Ivanov], [Nigma Galaxy captain Kuro Salehi "Kuroky" Takhasomi], and me, people who have been doing this for ten years in Dota 2, it's too stressful. It's too much, it's unhealthy, and it's not fun."
N0tail said he thought the current format of the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) was the reason why juggling real life and a pro Dota 2 career was so difficult.
In the 2021-2022 DPC, players have to compete across three Tours in the Winter, Spring, and Summer, with each Tour featuring online regional leagues that lasted up to five weeks followed by a LAN Major.
This season differs from previous formats in that the three Majors no longer give an equal amount of DPC points, which determines whether a team receives an all-important direct invite to TI.
More DPC points are now granted with each succeeding Major, meaning teams that place highly in the first Major of the season won't be guaranteed a direct invite to TI as in previous years.
With the current format, N0tail said that “Dota is not so much about peaking anymore. It’s about making it throughout the year then peaking at TI".
The former OG captain added that the season-long grind and the fact that peaking in a Major is no longer a guarantee of a spot at TI makes the pressure of competing on the highest level for pro players even more unbearable.
“You have to be ready once a week, which is kind of like an illusion because it’s not one day a week. You need to get ready like a few days before, you need to always stay ready," said N0tail.
“You can argue that you have to watch every game, watch the meta develop, and the pubs, because there is so much time in between official matches that the meta very quickly gets digested in public games that you quickly fall behind if you only watch official matches."
OG CEO: Training for football players not "comparable" to how much a Dota player plays
OG CEO J.M.R. Luna, who was in the podcast with N0tail, chimed in and compared Dota 2 to physical sports like football, saying that Dota 2 pros trained much harder than their more athletic counterparts.
“They do not train at all comparable to what a Dota player plays. A normal week on Real Madrid, you go there in the morning, you have breakfast with the team, you do one hour of prep by yourself. Then you go on the field for just two hours, Then you go to the massage for one hour, then the hyperbolic chamber for another hour then you go home,” said Luna.
The five total hours that footballers take a day is intense and obviously, teams spend some of the remaining time preparing strategies and watching other teams.
Even with that extra time, Dota 2 still demands more, as Luna explained how Ammar "ATF" Al-Assaf spent his new year, “I think Ammar played 17 pubs on the new year. 17 in one day, these guys are machines. That is what Dota has become.”
And even if pro players are able to handle the pressure and keep their edge in the game, N0tail argued that anything else outside of it will almost always take a backseat.
“If you’re trying to plan out your 365 days and want to give something to stability, life, which can also help your [competitiveness] and your TI peak, it is so hard in this system,” added the former OG captain.
N0tail notably stepped away from professional Dota 2 last November, saying he needed a "health break" and would skip the 2021-2022 DPC to mentor the new OG Dota 2 roster.
“I’m personally taking at least a year off, taking a health break so to speak… For now, all I know is that I need a break. I’m very content, very happy. I’m lucky to have played with the guys I’ve played with for the past two years. I feel fulfilled. But I need a break,” N0tail said in a statement.
N0tail is the most decorated player in the history of Dota 2, with a list of accolades that includes five Major championships and two TI championships. He is also the highest-earning esports player ever with over US$7.1 million in estimated winnings, according to esportsearnings.com.
Dota 2 fans can find the full podcast episode here.
Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.