Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Future of Dota

Dueling Fates is here, and with it comes exciting new heroes and items.  Our love for the game is rejuvenated once again, and we are ready to bite into this all very familiar yet a different game.  However, with each big patch, there’s a lingering question in my head that remain unanswered.

Why are patches needed?

At some point in dota history, Icefrog has managed to achieve the impossible; balance.  You might scoff and jeer, but dota has come a long way since the days of twenty competitive heroes.  Tiers are still a thing in dota, but the gap between these tiers are narrower than ever before.  Nowadays, it is not surprising to see nearly all the heroes banned and/or picked in a single tournament.  It isn’t perfect, and we may never reach perfect.  But it is damn good and it did not happen overnight.

Here’s the thing, though.  This is nothing new.  Dota has reached this state of balance years ago.  Yet we continue getting new patches.  Big patches that change the game.  

It never dawned on me until I saw the arrival of 7.00.  But if there’s a 7.00, the thought that one day there might be 8.00 or even 9.00 is not so unrealistic.  And while the thought of my favourite game being alive for that long is exciting, it is also a little daunting to imagine what transformation the game will go through.  I have friends who have played the game for nearly a decade, but since quit.  When we watch a game together, they struggle to follow what’s going on.  They feel foreign to the game they once loved.

Consider football (soccer), the world’s most popular sport.  Aside from little rule changes which we may call it balance tweaks, the sport itself has not seen any change in gameplay over the years.  And it will most likely remain so.  It is unlikely that FIFA will suddenly announce the game to be played with two balls.  From a six-year-old to sixty-year-old, everyone can relate and enjoy the game regardless of when they got into football.  Perhaps it’s not a fair comparison, a traditional sport to a modern videogame whose success is built on constant changes over the years.  But then what about SSBM, or even Starcraft 1?  Where new techs were being discovered a decade after the game's release.  SSBM is bigger now than ever before with no patches, but only the community moving the game forward.

Another factor is that the game is being solved quicker than ever before.  Before Dota 2, there was no unified platform to bring dota players together.  Scattered across GGC, BattleNet and other private networks, it were a nomadic age.  Perhaps the closest thing was HoN, and we saw the effect of this when they came over to dota and broke the game more effectively than anyone else.  But in time, dota players have become a seasoned veteran when it comes to solving a patch as a unit. 

Imagine the entirety of dota players as a single child.  Icefrog, our god, who throws us a puzzle to solve with each patch.  The first 70% of the puzzle is rather easy to solve and fun.  But it becomes harder and harder to solve as you complete the puzzle, kind of like cryptocurrency mining.  Once things slow down and new discoveries are made at a slower rate, the child gets bored and starts crying for a new puzzle.  Icefrog then throws us another puzzle to keep our minds occupied for the time being.  But since the game is quite balanced already, these new patches are designed only to retain our interest.  To which, I can't help but feeling that this can't be a healthy relationship.  We are only 6 versions deep into the 7.xx era, what the heck?

I do wonder what Icefrog’s end game is.  What does he want the game to be?  Where does he want to take the game?  We are a maturing audience.  Some of us are starting our careers, raising a family.  I have been playing this game for nearly 15 years.  We are not old, but we are getting older.  And I find myself conflicted.  I like new content and new patches are exciting.  But I’m also getting a little weary.

There are eleven majors and eleven minors this season.  Dota Pit is right around the corner, and we have the last TI winner and second place at that tournament.  What kind of performance can we expect from them?  In a few days time, we have matches to play for Dreamleague.  And in fifteen days, we travel to China for PW Minor.  I am telling our guys to take only a couple days off, and start spamming pubs to learn the game.  It is restless.

I'm not saying our lives are hard.  We sit on our asses and play videogames for money.  But you had never seen a game as brutal like dota, either.  Our legends are mocked and jeered at.  I feel like the general dota audience does not understand how difficult it really is to not only remain relevant, but dominant in all these years of change for our veteran players.  The game hardly resembles the one that they fell in love with anymore.  Compare that to SSBM, where Mango once said that he could take a year off from the game, return and still be a legend (paraphrased).  You couldn't have this in dota.  We have a new armor value changes that mess with years of intuition as to how damage should register.  That's the equivalent of messing with muscle memory in sports.  Like, the NBA suddenly deciding that the basketball should be 20% heavier.  It's crazy.

I remember reading 7.00 patch notes as 6.xx era came to an end, trying to formulate a thought as to what would be good and what wouldn't be.  I even had a little note to mention what I found interesting and broken in relation to my past experience of the game.  Nearly all my expectation turned out to be incorrect when I played the new patch, it was a different game altogether.  It left me with an odd feeling inside.  That feeling was even more pronounced when I read 7.07 notes; helplessness.  The only way to figure the game out is to feel it to your skin by playing it.  And playing it a lot.

Mind you, I have yet to play a single game of Dueling Fates, and maybe I'm just being senselessly emotional.  Because I always mutter stuff like "this isn't dota..." then eventually, "it's still dota".  But sometimes, I wish that the game would slow down a bit.  You know, I hadn't gotten tired of the old you, dota.  Must you change so often and so violently all the time?


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  2. Psychologically speaking, humans tend to dislike change, especially when they get comfortable. I'm 5.7k, and I've been playing ever since agility gave ms back in dota 1. To think that it's back now in dota 2, holy shit I feel old. I believe that patches are exciting and scary.They are scary because all the hours one spends playing the last patch suddenly becomes close to useless. It's tiring because if I want to maintain or raise my skill level at dota, I know 100% that I would need to invest a lot of hours into the game again. This is even more extreme in the case of pro players, because everyone has expectations of them, most especially what they expect of themselves. However, for a game like dota that has such heavy mechanics, the only way to progress is to get even more complex. The strain of learning is something we just have to accept, for dota is no casual game. Patches resets the game, gives all the players a fresh start and another chance(especially with the introduction of seasonal mmr). I was a bad midlaner because i hated playing the meta mid heroes, but with the new patch, who knows? Complexity might win all the majors this patch, and liquid might not qualify for ti, who knows?

  3. I think the frog is in for the long haul and hes currently just trying to figure out how to keep the game interesting for a long time. He probably is doing this because with every new generation the attention span is getting shorter, so he knows that the new generation is going to actually want constant changes and shit in the game. I think he believes that mainstream sports will eventually die off because people find them too boring because they're always the same. Maybe the frog knows what hes doing here or maybe hes just toying with his creation till its exactly what he wants - a timeless esport which should be simple to start, but extremely complex and difficult to master - just like all the sports that exist today.

    1. As an extension of my thoughts, i think that pros might need to learn several balanced patches which are all totally different and different tournies will play in different patches. One team might excell in patch A and another team might do better in patch B

  4. It's a bit surprising that the patches are so big, but really its about once a year that we have been getting crazy patches and then the rest of the year is balance tweaks. Your comparison to soccer is incredibly flawed though. You can't say things like removing double jeopardy, the introduction and then changing of the offside rule, and back pass rules are balance changes. They fundamentally change the way the game was and is played. Just like 7.07 and 7.00 have for Dota. However, they do not change the point of soccer (scoring more goals) just like none of these patches change the point of Dota (destroying the enemy ancient). They also don't fundamentally change the skills that are needed.

  5. well pms and talon removed makes the game a bit more like before :)))))))))))

  6. Change is fine, but new patches actually become new games. Main older patches should remain mainstream playable if you want DOTA to be considered a "sport" and not bored-kiddies-stuff.
    You'll see OPEN-AI fail at TI8 with their "quest" of a 5vs5 AI unless they restrict the field to a "specific patch, specific 5 heroes vs specific 5 heroes" scenery.
    Why? Because complexity becomes soon intractable even for "apparently basic procedures".
    Ask yourself what you want about Dota: you want it consistent as a sport for pro "athletes" or always fresh for the casual player? you want it as a great niche brainy game or as a mainstream gaming hobby?
    you want it as a mainstream show to watch? you want it to be a great show to make money around it? you want to make money from it as a publisher?
    I don't see how we can get all of these.

  7. trust the developer guys, new dota will be more fun

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