With esports market revenues expected to reach well over one billion dollars by 2020, the rabid demand for esports leaves ample opportunity for new IPs to encroach upon the territory of current market dominators such as Hearthstone, League of Legends and Dota 2. In an effort to remain competitive, market leaders will have to adopt inventive ways to tailor their game/s to keep up with the expeditious pace of ever changing industry standards. Games which strive to mitigate steep learning curves, while maintaining balanced and exciting gameplay should find themselves at the top of the heap in terms of adoption and viewership. That being said, tweaking any of the aforementioned aspects of a widely adopted multiplayer game can be quite precarious, as current players needs often clash with those of new ones.
On January 31st, Icefrog (Lead Developer for Dota) announced that “small” gameplay patches will be released every two weeks on Thursday, for a trial period of six months.
While this news warrants a certain level of excitement for new players, it will be interesting to see how players and professionals react to the expedited frequency of these new updates. Since its inception, Dota 2 has retained a very unique approach to patching/balancing for a MOBA. One which released larger updates, spanning several month intervals, with minor patch releases recurring monthly. In this aspect, Dota 2 operated in stark contrast to its main competitor League of Legends, which has maintained a bi-weekly release of its patches since the beginning. Massive updates, released at infrequent intervals, has proven an effective strategy for keeping Dota 2 one of the most historically well balanced MOBAs on the market. Balance issues which may have existed upon the initial release of each update tended to work themselves out, as players evolved their strategies to deal with “overpowered” heroes, items and abilities. In many ways, Dota 2 has managed to achieve balance this way, while curbing many of the adverse side effects of impulsive rebalancing with a notoriety for overcompensation.
For players like myself, one of the most appealing aspects of Dota 2 is the amount of flexibility the game provides in regard to tactical decision making and inventive strategy. As a result, the meta has remained fluid and dynamic from one season to the next. One might argue that this particular facet of the game is predominantly what keeps players interested, and professional level competition exciting.
On February 1st, Valve released Dota 2’s “Spring Cleaning 2018” update, touting a “slew of bug fixes” and “quality of life” changes. Redesigned player profiles, a live pro circuit tournaments tab, team teleport status and a last hit trainer are among the few exciting changes made. Furthermore, to address the growing level of toxicity associated with the community, a six month matchmaking ban will target players with a frequency of negative behavior (abandoning, feeding, player abuse, etc). While all of these changes should better serve the overall experience, I look forward to further improvements to the matchmaking system, and less overlap in terms of language and server preferences based on player locations.
In its current form, the new philosophy surrounding the approach to updates is something to be largely optimistic about. Since its initial release, Dota 2 has captivated millions of players with compelling gameplay predicated on meticulous design and superb engineering. Inevitably, there will be some that rebuke Valve for this news, however this is precisely the kind of proactive change necessary to keep Dota 2 in the spotlight for years to come.