Ben "Noxville" Steenhuisen is a South African stats man and was invited to be the primary English statsperson for The International 5. He also helped found the Standard Deviants, a group of people that provide in-game statistics for tournaments that request them. Many Dota 2 matches have pop-up notifications when certain events take place, and Noxville is someone who makes that happen.
When your invitation announcement was made, a lot of people were like "OK he deserves this." Is this a culmination of a lot of hard work?
So my impression was, after last year there was quite a lot of talents and this year there was going to be even more talent, so when I was invited I was like "OK awesome, I got invited which means definitely Brian "Kpoptosis" Herren, Alan "Nahaz" Bester, and probably one of the American in-game stats guys was invited. And they basically said "OK look, its private for now, we'll tell you when you can announce it."
So I didn't even tell anyone else; I told my friend in South Africa, Scant, because him and I work on everything but I also told him not to tell anyone, and then maybe five days later we announced it and kind of - its like the end of the game of [party game] Mafia when you're like "OH why is this happening or why isn't this happening?" and then I realized that I was the only person invited as a stats guy and Nahaz for the panel.
How did that feel? Obviously it's a big responsibility.
Yeah so by the time I realized no one else had been invited and they're [friends?]...the excitement had kind of subsided a bit, I wasn't like shaking, but I was quite scared and I was like "Nonono this can't happen, I can't do all the stats by myself".
But yeah, then I was talking to Scant and he was like "Nono don't worry, we'll work on this together." And I was like "OK cool", that made be feel a lot better. And the stats community is generally like, quite willing to volunteer time, effort so yeah.
Obviously something that kind of came out before the start of the groups was that whole "Stats Bible" that you helped put together; how much of that kind of prep have you done for this whole event?
I guess the "Stats Bible" was like, maybe like 30 hours to 40 hours for myself and Scant, and then maybe like an hour or two for the other people.
A couple of the talking points, like six or seven, eight, nine, were contributed by this Australian stats guy called CorruptDropBear. And Nahaz also created like a separate document of just like generally talking points by team. So yeah, the stats preparation on that front was like maybe 80 to 90 hours.
Also like because I like worked on DreamLeague, The Summit and I've watched all of ESL, like I feel pretty comfortable all the teams, especially the teams here. So there's like a lot of inherent second tier type of preparation, just watching the teams play, realizing that Silent has a lot of Gyrocopter games.
My kind of primary goal at the International is to watch the game, see what's different to normal, see what's exciting or special about it, and that's it. Like no one wants to be told "Gyrocopter went for Sange and Yasha" no one wants to be told "Magnus bought a Blink Dagger", but they care about it if it's very fast, or very slow and I think that I'm like quite willing to be quite critical but also pointing out the flaws of the Dota players.
One of the stats that came up during the International was about Fy's bounty Hunter which had no kills or assists at like 25 minutes, which is unheard of. So I think there is also a point to putting negative stats out in that regard, but not just being mean to be mean, but being mean to explain why a game's going badly.
By watching a lot of games, do you accumulate a kind of passive knowledge that makes picking out outlier stats easier?
Yeah I guess. I watch a lot, so I can get a good feel for when things are changing and I very often sit with...we don't all just like watch by ourselves; we watch with friends either live or we're all watching a game on Teamspeak and we're all screaming when Techies gets a triple kill or we're all screaming when someone lives on 10HP.
So, Dota is a community and watching and interacting with the games as a community allows you to learn a lot more.
Is there a stats fraternity almost where you're like "OK we have this kind of subtle role in terms of like the preparation and enabling yourself to realize the trends, that you can say "OK this is going against those trends let's point it out to the viewers".
Basically what I'm asking is it like a community effort, is there that kind of understated "Illuminati" of stats men in Dota?
So there is a group of stats people called the "Standard Deviants" which is basically a bunch of guys if you want stats for your tournament you speak to them...and one of them will be able to make a plan for you. For the most part in terms of the stats preparation, so my job at TI has kind of been threefold: stats preparation beforehand, knowledge/assistance live, and in-game stats.
So over the next couple of days and before each day of Main Event I'm probably going to sit with the panel and we'll all just talk about the games that are coming up the next day, we'll all talk about whats happening and I'll be able to chime in on "OK this team has been doing this special, this team is doing this special" kind of just quantifying or like reassuring their intuition - or correcting it.
For the most part live, I'm not going to disagree with what a caster says because stats people are supposed to be "seen, not heard" type of thing. Yeah, I think it's just going to be helping out. Some of the smartest people in Dota are at this event. To them, we help out a tiny bit and some of them are very very smart at Dota and all they need to make them that one step better is some statistics to back up their games.
It's just like quoting in an interview, if you're able to bring up some kind of number it results in a stronger statement.
Yeah, so Synderin is right about almost everything in Dota and you just watch the panel and are like "OK how can basically make his case concrete? How can I support what he's saying statistically?" That's the TL;DR of that side of the stat's job.
Something that I was curious about was like, is it like a separate interface that you like put the stats into and then it shows up on screen?
Yeah you press F10 if you're spectating the game. If you're in the draft you have to go "Broadcaster_OpenMenu"
It's the secret sauce?
Yeah, most tournaments don't wants stats during the draft phase because it messes up with the overlays. Especially at TI.
You have to make like the decisions of like the icon and the text that comes up. Is there ever a moment where you have to consider the clarity of what you're saying because it might be a little dense?
Yeah so for the most part if it goes onto three lines it needs to be a very simple statement. If it goes onto two lines, we try and keep it as small and to the side as possible as stats people.
If it's a two liner we'll cut off the last third from each line and move it down, just to try and keep it out of the way. Some people can't read it because they're watching on a TV and they're too far away or they're at Key Arena and the text is just not readable.
And at the same time, we're kind of butting into a conversation so we have to butt in with good information, easy to read in the period of time it's displayed, and as unambiguous as possible.
Sometimes you have like a very important thing to say but there's not enough space to say it so you have to try some rows and try some rows maybe one in a hundred stats you've got to kind of - like you'll put up a picture of Gyrocopter but you don't have space to say Gyrocopter twice in the sentence - you have to leave it to the caster's whim to explain it.
Matt Demers is a Supervising Editor at theScore eSports, and is doing interviews from The International in Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter.