Between the jaw-dropping battles of The Predator League 2022, live from Tokyo, we were able to hold an interview with two players from Team SMG, a team representing Malaysia in the Dota 2 Tournament, these being MidOne, who plays offlane for SMG and Nikobaby, in his own words, “a freelancer in the free world”.
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng is a Malaysian professional Dota 2 player. He’s been gaming since a young age, starting with games like Tetris and Rayman before becoming interested in Dota when he saw his brother playing it. He’s the first Southeast Asian server player to reach 8000MMR. He’s placed first in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major and The Chongqing Major.
Nikolay “Nikobaby” Nikolov is a Bulgarian professional Dota 2 player. He’s been playing for almost ten years since 2014, winning many competitions including coming in first place at the dream league Season 15 DPC Western Europe Upper Division, EPIC League Season 2 Division 2, and DreamLeague Season 12.
For this interview, MidOne and Nikobaby told us more about coming back to in-person tournaments, and how they think the Dota 2 scene is developing:
MidOne, you’ve played in some of the most competitive regions, so how do you think the scene has developed so far?
MidOne: Development is the same I would say, it’s just a different style of playing Dota. I would say European is more systematic compared to SEA; SEA is more like individual players, they don’t play like a team, most of them. Even if they do, it’s a coincidence I would say.
I saw that you were supposed to have retired, so why did you come to play in SEA then?
Nikobaby: Because I was playing pubs at home and then I was presented with an opportunity to travel to Tokyo to enjoy the games and it’s hard to say no. No one would say no to this.
Over The International (TI) there was quite a lot of talk about coaches; you yourself got Mushi as a temp coach, so how do you think it affects the team?
MidOne: We got a coach because, I mean, last year we didn’t really have a coach; actually we did, but we needed a Dota coach to make things easier. We don’t need to draft ourselves, someone is clicking heroes. It helps us, we can focus on the game more.
What keeps you playing Dota 2 professionally?
MidOne: I think… the scene is bad but I guess I just like to live in a bad scene so I kept going.
Nikobaby: He likes abusive relationships.
Anything you wish would change about the Dota 2 scene then?
MidOne: I would say, Tier 2 tournaments, I hope the organizers communicate better with the teams to make things easier, to improve the scene part of it for the players. If Dota 2, for the game, I wish there would be more patch-changing, is how I see it.
What did you think of The International watching it from the outside?
MidOne: I feel like, I dunno, this time this year it didn’t feel like TI, sadly. And, I think, Valve needs to do better.
Nikobaby: I didn’t watch it.
This time, TI took place for quite a long time. What did you think about that particular format?
MidOne: I mean I think it’s great if you win, it’s easy money. You win, you get the top seed, top 6, top 3, top 2, and top 1, you just have to win 4 matches I think, if I’m not wrong, coming from the winner bracket. I don’t mind if I’m the winner, but if I’m the loser I’d be complaining for sure. But I think it’s okay, if they wanna change I’m cool with it.
Are there any particular regions that surprised you with their performance at TI?
MidOne: I would say SA [South America]. I think SA was really good, they had Top 4, Top 6 [Thunder Awaken], somewhere there. They surprised me a lot, they are pretty good, getting better, and this also proves a point that SEA is garbage, they need to wake up.
How different is it from playing in person and online?
MidOne: LAN depends on the crowd. If the stage is big, you get more hyped and excited. When you play online, you don’t feel the hype; you treat it as a tournament, for sure, but you don’t feel the same thing as LAN.
How important is the audience being there in the venue for you?
MidOne: It’s completely important like you are playing and people are watching, and there’s a lot of… I don’t know how to put it, like, emotion? Excitement, it can be sad, or angry, you can feel it from the audience, the energy around the stage/arena, having all of this is important, imagine you are playing a competition and there’s no audience like TI10; it’s just sad and doesn’t feel like TI at all. Yeah, you’re competing but you don’t feel the pressure, you don’t feel anything; you just go in and play.
What do you see yourself doing after retiring from pro play?
MidOne: I dunno, I don’t think that far. I think it’s not the time to think about it until you’re done. When you’re done, you have plenty of time to think about it, I would say.
Since we’re coming up on time, any closing words?
MidOne: Well thank you for supporting me and us, even though we’re not having a great time.
Nikobaby: Yeah, thank you for your support through bad and good, it’s like a relationship.
The relationship between players and fans is certainly important, and while playing online is functional, that relationship can feel all the stronger when everyone comes together in person. After being kept online for the past couple of years over the pandemic, I’m sure everyone is glad to see players face-to-face again.
We thank MidOne and Nikobaby for speaking to us in this interview and wish them and their team the best of luck in their future endeavors.