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Merlini and LD announce retirement from Dota 2 casting

One of the most famous players and talent in Dota2 esports scene has announced his retirement from the scene. The decision comes via a series of Tweets and as a surprise to many involved in the scene. However, the decision does not derive itself from any negative criteria in Dota2. Instead, Merlini wants to focus on his personal life and future goals.

https://twitter.com/MerliniDota/status/963533815619530752/

He followed this up with a statement on Reddit explaining his situation to the fans & the community.

I’ve had to consider my options for a while now, and I have to look out for my future. Everything was going great while I was casting. I loved seeing my friends, and I loved Dota. That was enough to make me happy. But as you age older and older, priorities start to shift. Dreams start to fade, realizations start to set in, and responsibilities mount.

Let’s start out simple. I’d love a dog, but I can’t take care of it. I travel too much, and it would be supremely unfair to get a pet. So what? Just don’t get a pet. Problem solved.

And then a bit more complex. What if talent starts undercutting other talent and I get paid less, despite Dota increasing in popularity and mounting prize pools? What if organizers start saying, “hey, we’re going to cut your rates in half.” What power do I have to say no? I *can* say no, but then I’m not making any money. The opportunity cost of me not going is huge. I can maybe stream in the meantime, or do some amateur casts,but that’s only a temporary solution for a paltry paycheck. And this is tier 1 talent, mind you.

If I have little leverage, imagine the leverage of some others. Anyways, if one or two of the tier 1 talent is missing at an event, the organizer isn’t going to take a hit. They know that, and they realize they have more leverage, and hence can fiddle with rates as they wish. I’m at someone else’s mercy despite being at the top of the field.

I always try my best to stay in touch with the game, know the teams/players, watch tournaments, and peruse some stats before I talk about the teams. I try not to talk smack about organizers. I’m almost never late. I keep my word. I played plenty of Dota. I’m reliable, and I’m honest. Simply put, I do my job. There’s a bit of room for improvement (learn more heroes, do more research on t2/t3 teams, etc.), but job-wise, I’m close to the ceiling. So I have to look for other avenues for growth. Am I skilled enough to play competitive? Clearly not.

Do I want to make YouTube videos about Dota? The market is not sustainable for me, I tried. Do I want to actively engage and promote sponsors for more income? I have morals that prevent me from selling 

products that I don’t like or use myself. Do I want to accrue a ton of subs and stream full-time? I never shilled for subs because my soul hurts asking other people for money. Do I want to become a variety analyst/caster? No. Dota is my game. Other games piddle away in comparison. Is Dota going to be alive in 5 years? Probably, but it’s not guaranteed. I struggled to find ways to grow, and concluded that casting was only a temporary thing for me.

 

And then even heavier issues. What about when I get married? Do I want to see my wife/kids half the month and live out of a hotel the other half? What if I want to purchase a modest house at some point. Can I take on a mortgage in good faith that I’m going to have steady income for 20-30 years? Am I actually going to be able to pay that off? My parents are getting old, and their health is slowly, but surely failing. Can I take care of them? Do I have money to do that? Do I even have the time to take care of them before they pass away? Am I going to regret the choices that I’ve made in life when I’m in mourning when they eventually leave this earth?

They’ve sacrificed a lot for me. For reference, shortly after my grandfather died, I reasoned with myself, “He gave up his life and his home…so I could be unhappy working ridiculously long hours at a job I don’t love.” I quit that week and started doing something that I liked (Dota).

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy casting, or that I don’t like Dota anymore. It is an amazing game that has captivated most of my time for roughly 13 years. But it sucks not having a goal. It feels empty to not strive for something better. I became more concerned with smaller things. Trivial things impacted me more. I’m a bit ashamed and disappointed in myself, but I had my emotions flare in Dota a while ago, something that hasn’t happened for many, many games. And looking back at it, it was because I was overly concerned with the small stuff. Why? Because I had no big picture of my career.

I had no professional goals. Half my college friends are doctors, and the other half are successful software developers. They are surrounded by peers that push them, teach them, and help them grow. I need that in my life. At some point in 2017 it hit me that some people looked up to me, and it was a sudden, strange shock, of “What am I doing?” I never really focused on what other people thought, I just tried to do the best that I could. But when I actually took a step back and looked around, it was a little surreal to see how unaware I was and how my aspirations had languished.

 

Who is Merlini?

Ben “Merlini” W has a long relationship with Dota2. It started out as a player back in the days of DotA Allstars. Merlini’s understanding of the game and his outlook on utilizing new updates to their full potential earned him a lot of respect amongst teams. He was one of the first players to fully understand and use the ‘observer wards’ to gain an advantage in the matches.

When Dota 2 was released Merlini shifted to being a caster/panelist for professional matches. He was invited to be a panelist for the very first International which launched Dota 2 on to the scene. He has been a regular at many other events including several Beyond The Summit events.

LD announces a backseat as a commentator

He has been involved in Dota2 for a long time and now has his own company

LD has also been involved in Dota2 since the start of Dota2. He has been a color commentator and has been involved with several casting duos. He also formed the Beyond the Summit group which has hosted several tournaments since. The casual and laid back environment of Summit tournaments has endeared them to several fans.

LD Twitlonger Content :

There’s been some confusion over BTS and my role in the company, so in true DOTA fashion I decided to write a blog to clear the air a bit with the community.

I am not a full-time DOTA caster, and I have not been for quite some time now.

To some, this may seem obvious. To others, it may come as a surprise. In any case, perhaps a little explanation is in order.

I started casting DOTA ~6 years ago, in January 2012. That year was a whirlwind ride. Scarcely eight months after I started, both Godz and I had worked the second International and made a bit of a name for ourselves as casters in the fledgling DOTA scene. Emboldened by our success but with no clue what the future held, we decided to roll the dice, drop all our commitments, and move out to Los Angeles with support from the community to found BTS as an esports company focused on DOTA 2 casting and coverage.

From the founding of BTS through the first DOTA Summits, DOTA was my life. If I wasn’t casting, I was watching, playing, or studying the game. Perhaps the pinnacle of my personal obsession came in 2014, when I cast an Asian event for 12 hours (most of it solo), took a 2 hour nap, and woke up to cast another 12 hours of Starladder. By the second day of this grind, I was literally so tired that I slept through 5 alarms and only eventually awoke to the sound of my (rather angry) roommate banging on the door.

Frankly, it wasn’t very healthy. I sacrificed having a social life, eating properly, exercising, sleep, and generally taking care of myself. But I poured myself into DOTA and into casting, both because I loved it and because it was what our startup needed at the time.

Over the last few years, things changed. The industry evolved, our company evolved, and my role within the company has evolved alongside it. Today, we’re not just the DOTA 2 casting studio we were 6 years ago; we’re a full-fledged esports production company.

Don’t get me wrong. Although BTS has grown a lot, we are still one of the smallest companies in the space compared to the likes of ELeague, ESL, and Dreamhack. I know a fair number of DOTA fans have this image of BTS as some large corporate monolith, but the truth is we have a small team of dedicated and awesome full-time staff, all of whom I love dearly and count myself very lucky indeed to have as good friends.

In 2015, as BTS expanded beyond just being a DOTA 2 casting studio, I struck a balance between casting and running the business. (Truthfully, it’s always been a juggling act, but I suppose you could say the juggling intensified!) That worked for awhile, but somewhere along the way, I found myself stretched very thin. I simply didn’t have time to cast and follow DOTA full-time the way I used to.

I gradually started to feel that I was doing a disservice to the community, and so I began to focus more on running BTS and less on casting. Gradually, I stepped back. I never really commented on it publicly, because this wasn’t a eureka moment that happened overnight. It was a dawning realization that crept up on me slowly over a period of years, as the needs of our company continued to grow and the time I had available to cast continued to shrink.

Today, my focus is on building and growing BTS as a sustainable business. That means making sure the company is financially successful, so that everyone who works here can be paid properly and have decent healthcare. It means making sure everyone works reasonable hours and gets time off to spend with their loved ones. We want to make the esports career path a viable option for good and talented people without requiring them to sacrifice their health or personal well-being as we did to get here.

Sometimes, this means working on projects that are not DOTA. We do love this game, and we will continue to run events and create new content for it. However, to be blunt, it would be extremely irresponsible of us to those who work here and depend on us for their livelihoods to focus solely on a single game. There’s not a single major company in esports who has been around as long as ours who does that. That’s not because they lack passion, because they don’t care, or because they are greedy. It is simply because diversifying your portfolio is a smart and responsible strategy to ensure you will be around for the long haul.

But while DOTA is no longer all that we do, this community still has our hearts. Ever since David and I began this journey back in 2012, the DOTA community has shown us incredible support and passion. I know I speak for both of us when I say how unbelievably grateful we are for that. We know we wouldn’t be where we are without you.

I gave the better part of 6 years of my life to casting this crazy, infuriating, but ultimately beautiful game of ours, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. If I could do it all over again, knowing I would relive all the sleepless nights, hate threads, heartache, and moments where I failed or fell short (yes, even the infamous WAOW), I would. In a heartbeat.

I’ve been fortunate enough to cast some of the most memorable moments in DOTA 2 history, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed sharing them with me as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing them to you. I still love this community, and I earnestly hope to sneak in an appearance casting whenever I can.

I realize that writing this post may kill my chances of getting invited to another International. But I have never cast simply for the sake of getting invited to TI, and I never will. I consider most of the DOTA talent to be my close friends, and the last thing I ever want is to feel like I am stealing a spot from a friend who truly deserves it, especially when I know I am no longer able to devote myself to the game the same way they do.

You are all in very capable hands. We are blessed in DOTA with a deep well of talent, and I know folks like ODPixel, Lyrical, Blitz, Fogged, Trent, Winter, Jack, Cap, Toby, SirActionSlacks, Purge, GrandGrant, Xyclopz, Godz (and Synderen) will continue to bring you the perfect blend of hype, analysis, and dank memes that top-notch DOTA deserves.

Finally, I’d like to just state for the record that we know there is lots of room for BTS to grow and improve, especially with regards to our 3rd party qualifier coverage and developing new DOTA products. While I can’t promise everything will change exactly the way you might hope for overnight, I can promise that everyone here at BTS is listening and will keep on working hard to do better for you. We have some exciting new projects in DOTA under development that I think you guys will really enjoy, and I look forward to sharing those with you soon.

Much love,

LD

 

Final Thoughts

Dota2 will definitely miss both Merlini and LD. They have been crucial in the development & growth of Dota2. Their talent and involvement in the esports scene have resulted in Dota 2 is a successful esports title.

While LD will still be involved in Dota 2, via BTS, Merlini has decided to take an alternative career path.

 

Sources :

Merlini Reddit Post

LD Twitlonger

 

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Rohan Samal