The Past, Present, and Future of Dota

The Roaring Present

The International 6, the pinnacle of competitive Dota, just concluded and left the masses awestruck in its prestige. The tournament was a roller coaster of a ride with teams such as Liquid, OG, and Newbee being eliminated within the first three days of the main event. Evil Geniuses, last year’s International champions, had their return to glory since their abysmal results following the Shanghai Major. Their first match against Ehome was by far the craziest game of the tournament. 17 minutes in EG was 11,000 gold behind and fought through constant aggression from Ehome. Sumail and Fear’s presence and decision making in the mid-game helped them crawl back into contention. Eventually Ehome would get mega creep, but EG’s execution during their ancient defense was able snatch them a team wipe to turn the game around.

“In the 22,000 pro Dota matches on record, only 33 games have been won from a mega creep deficit” -Nahaz

Evil Geniuses were not the only North American team stepping up to the plate. Digital Chaos, the underdogs of the tournament, slugged their way through the lower bracket to meet Wings for the third time this tournament in the grand finals. It is unheard of having an American team aside from EG in the top 8. The diversity of regions within the top 8 was unprecedented because of the dominance of European and Chinese teams throughout the history of Dota. South East Asian teams have been on the rise taking 4th, 5th, and 7th place in the tournament. One of the biggest upsets was TNC eliminating OG on the second day and placing 7th. The current patch and the brilliance of captains has yielded the largest variety of strategies ever seen in a meta. Some have commented that the patch is still young and has room to evolve and settle. This moment in time did not just simply manifest. Over the past year, Dota has seen numerous patches which have created either ripples or tidal waves of change to the game.


A Glimpse of the Past

TI5 and 6.84

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The release of 6.84 came with a plethora of new items. There has not been a release of items this big since 6.73, 5 years prior, with the release of Rod of Atos, Heaven’s Halberd, Ring of Aquila, Abyssal Blade, and Tranquil Boots. There have been a few other items released in between such as Shadow Amulet and Crimson Guard, but none has had as much impact as the items released in this patch. Guardian Greaves, Moon Shard, and Boots of Travel II helped heroes scale into the late game; while Glimmer Cape, Silver Edge, and Octarine Core filled roles that weren’t in the game previously. It is also important to note that during this patch Alchemist gained the ability to get additional gold from bounty runes and the ability to bestow allies with Aghanim’s Scepter. First seen as a gimmick, Alchemist would soon become a top tier pick as the meta evolved.

Frankfurt Major and 6.85

Coming out of 6.84, which was fairly diverse and a well received patch, 6.85 brought nerfs to many strong intelligence heroes. Techies was reworked to lower his physical damage burst potential and many features were added to help clear his mines. This patch mainly focused on the numbers by balancing the heroes/items. A note worthy change is the removal of bonus damage from purge to summoned units. This made summon based heroes more reliable. Overall the patch was relatively small.

Shanghai Major and 6.86

Patch 6.86 is one of the largest changes to Dota known to date: massive changes to the Radiant jungle, new hard camps in the off-lane, the arcane rune, four new items, and various balance changes to heros and items. The changes to the Radiant side opened up the jungle and mid-lane to be easily contested. Aside from the Rosh Pit position change in 6.82 and minor tweaks to the trees, the Dota map is rarely changed. The addition of the off-lane hard camps and the inclusion of a necessary evil, the Iron Talon, grew the competitive hero pool due to the additional accessibility of gold and experience. Dragon Lance and Aether Lens both added bonus range to physical attacks and spells which were never before seen in the game. The bonus range from Dragon Lance now allows the standard 600 range hero to siege towers without retaliation. Aether Lens increasing the range spells improves the the ability to initiate or escape especially during the night cycle when vision is reduced.

Manila Major and 6.87

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An equal, if not bigger patch was released after the Shanghai Major. As usual there are various balance changes with the heroes, but the biggest changes in this patch was the balance around items, true-sight vision, and the addition of the Scan ability. Scan is the wildest mechanic added to Dota. This mechanic single-handedly warps the way initiation and counter initiation plays out by offering teams knowledge of the position of an enemy without the use of vision. The change in position of towers and the diminished range of true-sight has allowed more invisible heroes such as Riki and Clinkz to be viable in the meta. Seven new items were released in 6.87. The quality of life for supports and roamers grew significantly with the access to Wind Lace, Infused Raindrops, and Tome of Experience. Along with new items, many items such as Abyssal Blade and Drums of Endurance were revamped to fill in new roles. The new recipe for Dragon Lance has made it the second most efficient stat item in the game. Echo Sabre and the buff to Armlet of Mordiggian ushered in a new age of beefy mid-game strength heroes.

TI6 and 6.88

Due to the tight schedule of the majors, 6.88 was immediately released after the completion of the Manila Major. This patch was fairly minor due to how stable the game has become and how close together the Manila Major and the International were. There were many tweaks to heroes to fine tune them in time for TI6.

This year has been huge for Dota as a whole. Patches have been released so frequently compared to the Dota 1 days. Over the past year, players have been able to see how much thought Icefrog has put into balancing this game. When he nerfs a hero the hero generally continues to keep aspects of themselves that make them good at what they do. Instead various other aspects of the hero’s game play can be changed to compensate for their strengths. Heroes do not get nerfed to a point where they are unplayable because people often commit themselves to a hero they enjoy. If Icefrog chose to nerf a hero out of existence then it would leave those players unhappy and would cause loss of faith in the creator. Prior to 6.84 the previous patches would often gravitate towards a handful of few different strategies or heroes such as 4 Protect 1, Ratting, Deathball, Tinker, Zip-Zap, HOHO-HAHA, or Spin-to-Win. But as of 6.88b the game has never been in such a perfect place. 105/111 of the heroes were picked during the International and practically any strategy worked. Teams have had much more character lately because they are picking and banning more to their strengths rather than whoever is overpowered or is the flavor of the month. Already 6.88c has arrived and further buffed unpicked heroes and adjusted strong heroes of the iteration. Finally Valve has released the last bit of Dota 1, the Underlord.


The Shining Future

The Weekend Battle Cup

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The Battle Cup is an automated tournament service and has so much potential for the future of Dota. Currently the event happens every Saturday at 7PM until the end of August and costs $5 per team. In the future if and when they reintroduce the function into Dota, I suggest that they run the service from Friday to Sunday with multiple time slots to increase the availability of the Battle Cup to the players.

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Along with multiple time slots for the players to play in, Valve should consider running free events. The events highlighted in light green would be run free of charge. Anyone can join in with a group of five and play. The format will be completely the same: 8 Teams, Best of 1, single elimination tournaments. These free events provide no hats nor emoticons, but provide the winners with a ticket stub that is bound to their steam account. Once a player acquires two ticket stubs they can combine them into a ticket to any of the main events (dark green events). A benefit of running free events is the opportunity to foster a competitive spirit among casual players who want to experience these events but are not willing or unable to pay for the main event. The free events would compliment Valve’s free to play business model. The system will allow players to be able to play in the main event whether or not they choose to sink money into the game. They are met with a play-wall instead of a pay-wall. The main events, highlighted in dark green, have the current $1 dollar entry fee per player and are run exactly as the free events, but with hats or emoticons. The Battle Cup system could further be expanded and have a tournament held at the end of the month that invites players who won in the main event to play for exclusive chests.

In the larger scope of the Battle Cup, Valve could use the automated tournament service to run online qualifiers in game rather than using third party sources such as Faceit. There was an issue during the TI6 Open Qualifiers where a team was unable to join their second match because of a patch released during the event that interrupted the Faceit coordinator. Problems like this could be avoided if everything was centralized and coordinated by Valve.

Valve could easily modify the format of the Battle Cup to be best of three or GSL-styled group stages and either sell or give their services to third party tournament organizers to help streamline online events. No one knows what Valve will do with the Battle Cup in the future, but the possibilities are endless.


User Interface & 6.89 Wishlist

It is hard to imagine what Icefrog and Valve will add to the game in the next patch. Valve has already released the Underlord and a detailed post game summary. The game is in such a good place right now, but there are a few quality of life and niche items or effects I would like to see in the game.

  • Main menu item explorer: I don’t understand why this hasn’t already been implemented in Source 2. It is a bit strange that you have to create a custom lobby or look online to be able to find information about items. While on the topic on items, having a post script that reminds players if the item can be bought outside of base could be beneficial for players learning where items are.
  • Healing Suppression effects: Currently the only hero that has this mechanic is Ancient Apparition. There are certain hero compositions that stack healing or regeneration effects that can be troublesome to handle without having an AA on your team. This effect could be added to Rod of Atos or added to a new item. It does not have to be the full suppression effect like Ice Blast, but it could be percentage based.
  • Cheaper build up for Sange & Yasha by reducing the cost of both recipes by ~300 gold: There is a lack of mid-game items for agility melee cores due to the changes to Drums of Endurance. Most ranged cores will build Dragon Lance, which is roughly the same stats (agility/strength) for less than half the price. Strength cores have Armlet of Mordiggian, the most cost effective item in the game, and Echo Sabre. Sange & Yasha is seldom bought these days. With the reduced cost of Yasha, increasing the recipe for Manta Style could balance out the difference.
  • Another item for Yasha to build into: Sange builds into Halberd and not every heroes that builds Yasha necessarily wants to make Manta Style. Heroes such as Gyrocopter, Broodmother, Phantom Assassin, and Riki want to close the distance and stick on their target. I suggest a new item that combines Phase Boots and Yasha together:

3700g Total
Phase Boots (1240)  + Yasha (2050) + Recipe (410)
+60 Movement Speed
+24 Damage
+16 Agility
+16% Attack Speed
+16% Movement Speed

Active: Phase Strike – 8 Second Cooldown – 2.5 Second Duration
+25% movement speed while active
Allow you to move through units.
Deals your auto attack damage to enemies you pass through. Enemies can only be effected once.


Closing Thoughts

It is an amazing time to be a Dota fan right now. The patch is great and Valve has finished porting things over from Dota 1. The roster shuffles are going on and I am excited to see what new teams are going to form for the next season. Information about the majors are yet to be announced, but I am hoping the venue could move every year to different cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Saint Petersburg.

Best regards,
Christopher

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