Update: DreamHack issued a statement on cheating allegations against Alliance. Details can be found here.
One of the hottest questions in Dota 2 right now is one that’s very difficult to answer. Did Alliance cheat during an official Dota Pro Circuit match?
Alliance recently released a vlog that included footage of the team’s game against Brame during DreamLeague Season 15. While this isn’t unusual for Alliance, eyebrows were raised on Reddit when interim coach Peter “ppd” Dager could be heard making calls to the team.
During the game, ppd could be heard saying “our throne is in trouble” which members of the Alliance team seem to react to by rotating. Later, it sounds as though ppd says “gg” towards the end of the game.
Alliance lost the series against Brame 2-1.
Alliance and ppd most certainly violated the spirit of Dota 2’s rules, but it may not have violated the letter of the rules.
Professional Dota 2 has traditionally not seen coaches allowed to make any communications with their team outside of the draft phase. Though there hasn’t been much issue with this in Dota 2, Valve repeatedly tried to lessen the impact of coaching in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and likely wouldn’t be comfortable with the notion of coaches shot-calling in official Dota 2 matches.
OG captain Johan “N0tail” Sundstein stated he asked Valve about the topic and minced no words in regards to how he viewed Alliance’s actions:
Having a coach during a dota game has never been allowed.
0 respect for people that cheat, same thing when people macros and claim it’s ‘not against the rules’ or ‘I still have to know when to use it’
L O L
Mentioned concept to valve TI9
They said no
— Johan Sundstein (@OG_BDN0tail) May 11, 2021
That said, there may not be any rules that expressly forbid teams from doing this. According to Dota 2 analyst Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen, ESL and DreamHack made changes to the rules for their Dota Pro Circuit leagues following the ONE Esports Singapore Major by removing any guidelines regarding coaches being able to talk with players in-game and alerted teams to this ahead of the start of DreamLeague Season 15 and the ESL One CIS League’s second cycle.
While this might sound unusual, numerous parties have noted that it’s effectively impossible to police communications in this current competitive format. Short of having a referee present locally with both teams and having complete access to players’ PCs during competition, there is no way to prevent third parties from communicating with teams in-game. Rather than trying to fix something that’s impossible to address, ESL and DreamHack may have simply thrown the doors open to these sorts of communications.
Alliance clearly didn’t believe its actions were out of line, as the discovery of ppd’s comms was made by watching Alliance’s own social media content. It’s also very possible that other teams have been doing the same thing without publicly advertising it the way Alliance did. The question now is whether Valve will issue a statement on the matter and whether the rules will be amended by ESL and DreamHack.