Product Update - Valve
* Fixed Eyes in the Forest still applying Overgrowth damage after the tree had been destroyed and regrown.
Community Announcements - DerrickG™
If you are a contributor who has shipped an item in any Valve title, we would like to invite you to join us at The International. Badges to attend The International will be available free of charge, though you will be responsible for your own transportation and boarding costs.

We would also like to offer you the opportunity to customize your Contributor badge to feature your art. If you are interested in attending The International or customizing your Contributor badge, please contact us here: ti-contributors@valvesoftware.com

Like last year, we will have areas for contributors to interact with the community, and your Contributor badge will also give you access to special contributor areas. We will have more information about the Contributor experience soon.
Community Announcements - SZ
Tickets to The International will be available to purchase at this link and will be on sale soon. The first wave starts at 10:00am PDT March 27th and followed by the last wave at 10:00pm PDT March 27th.

Q. How many tickets can I buy?
Ticket purchases are limited to 5 per household.

Q. When will tickets go on sale?
Tickets will be sold in two equal waves. The first wave will be sold at 10:00am PDT, and the last wave will be sold at 10:00pm PDT. Use this time zone converter if you are unsure when tickets will be sold in your time zone.

Q. Can I purchase from both waves of tickets?
Yes, however you are still limited to a total of 5 tickets per household across both waves.

Q. Can I sit anywhere, or will there be preassigned seats?
There are no assigned seats. You will be able to sit anywhere.

Q. How can I purchase a VIP Ticket?
All tickets sold will be General Admission. We will not be directly selling VIP tickets.

Q. Can I trade my ticket if I cannot attend?
Yes, but please note that if you are picking up your badge from Will Call, you will have to contact Ticketmaster support and request a badge holder name change.

Q. Can I get a refund on my ticket?
Yes. If you contact Ticketmaster support within 48 hours of your purchase, they will help you secure a refund.

Q. I purchased a ticket and I live within the US. Can I change my shipping address?
No. Ticketmaster will only ship to the address you supplied at checkout. If you need to adjust the ticket to a Will Call ticket, please contact Ticketmaster support.

Q. I purchased a ticket and I live outside of the US. How will I receive my ticket?
Your ticket will be at the Will Call booth at the event. You will need to provide a picture ID to pick up your ticket. If you will not be the person picking up the ticket, please contact Ticketmaster support to add an additional pick up name to your order.

You can find the purchase page for the tickets here. We recommend going there and creating an account ahead of time so you will be ready when the tickets go on sale.
PC Gamer

Valve has announced that tickets for the 2015 edition of the Dota 2 International will go on sale on March 27 in two separate "waves," the first beginning at 10 am PDT and the second at 10 pm PDT.

Fans who want to make the trip to Seattle to see the big event live and in person may buy tickets from either or both waves, but will be limited to a maximum of five per household. Tickets will sell for $99 each and seating will be general admission only (please don't fight), although Valve said that information about "the VIP experience" will be released at some point in the future. Last year's VIP package cost $499 per person, so you can likely expect something in a similar range this time around.

This year's International, pitting the top 16 teams against one another in a take-no-prisoners brawl for the belt, will run from August 3-8 at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington. Tickets may be purchased via this link to Ticketmaster; if you're not comfortable with time zone conversions, hit up this handy automatic converter to find out when you need to be in line.

PC Gamer

Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2, Smite, and wizards in general.

League of Legends has one. StarCraft II has one. Hearthstone has one. Smite has one. Seasonal ladders are a standard component of most modern competitive games, and lately I've been wondering why Dota 2 is absent from that list—particularly as Valve continue to tweak the MMR system.

I'm no fan of the way the MMR system has been implemented, nor do like the effect it's had, over time, on the Dota community. Valve's approach has always been inconsistent—or at least, they've not been transparent about their reasoning. Way back when, your matchmaking rating was hidden, the thought being that a visible rating would just lead players to obsess over it (that thought was correct). Later it was made visible and now the average MMR of each team is displayed at the start of the match, with the highest-rated players indicated in each case. Valve's slow U-turn is finally reaching its end.

I imagine we'll see the obvious problems that this has introduced shake themselves out over time—people will stop granting mid automatically to the highest-rated player, games will become less about ensuring that the enemy's best guy has a bad time—but, to me, it feels like Dota 2 has arrived at a strange middle ground. Competitive rating systems have two purposes: to ensure that players are matched with equally-skilled opponents, and to provide players with a goal—a way to gauge their improvement. Dota 2's system works reasonably well for the former, but it's terrible at the latter.

The current MMR system is visible enough to define how most people perceive their value as players, but the task of significantly altering your MMR is so monumental that it's out of reach of all but the most dedicated. Plenty of studies have been done that show that, eventually, your MMR will rise or fall appropriately—it is certainly possible to improve your rank as long as you're sufficiently dedicated and capable. That isn't in doubt, nor is the achievement of those players who have managed to significantly improve their position.

It certainly is an achievement—improving your rating by a notable amount (normally a matter of thousands of points) takes months and requires a huge investment of time. It is a marathon: grueling, unforgiving, and, a lot of the time, really unpleasant. The Dota community gets some of its best qualities from that process. It also gets a lot of its worst ones. Playing the MMR game feels a lot like wading through a mire: progress is incremental and your destination is always very far away. Also, the mire is full of dickheads. You look down; the mire is dickheads.

Personally, I see no reason why the current system couldn't work as the basis for a faster, more gratifying ladder system. In addition to improving my MMR slowly over time, I'd love the ability to play for a position within a monthly ladder, with tiers of performance—master, diamond, gold, and so on—that give you a sense of your general skill level at that time. In particular, I think being able to do this with a dedicated stack would fill in a gap between pub play and in-house leagues that Dota 2 currently desperately lacks. The best option available to beginner teams at the moment is JoinDota League, and that's both sporadic and a competitive tier above what most people will be looking for.

The great thing about time-limited ladders is that they provide a clear goal and they let you know whether you've succeeded or failed in a reasonable amount of time. That simply doesn't exist for Dota 2 at the moment: you're either in for the long haul or you're not in at all. While you could argue that Dota 2 is set aside from its competitors by this very fact—that it's Dota because there's no 'quick' option—I don't think ladders would make the game any less competitive. In fact, I think it'd make it more competitive. And—crucially—I think it'd make it friendlier.

The lie of MMR—and I've said this before—is the idea that it represents you all of the time. Your MMR is an average—that means that you will sometimes play better than your rating, and you will sometimes play worse than it. If your rating says '4000', you are not a 4K player every day, or even every game. An awful lot goes into a game of Dota, and you're only as good as you are capable of being in that moment.

The problem with the current system is that it suggests that MMR is forever: this is only true if you only play ranked, and you play it all the time. The advantage of a ladder is that it is located in time. I can say 'I was a rank 12 Hearthstone player in March last year' and that will remain true regardless of my current skill level. This encourages a bit of necessary perspective—each new ladder is proof of whether you've improved or slipped—and discourages you from obsessing over any particular rating. People still do, of course—but the system itself plays against it.

This can only be healthy for Dota 2. I'd love to see Valve make the switch—or explain, in a detailed way, what they're hoping to achieve with the current system.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

PASS ME MY TEEMO HAT.

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na Vi s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be telling you why she’s preferring pro League to pro Dota and what any of that has to do with medical soap operas:>

I’ve been away from my own PC for big chunks of the last couple of weeks. It’s mainly been for work reasons so in addition to not being able to play any Dota or League I’ve also been able to watch very little. The semi-absence has been irritating, in that I’ve missed gaming but it’s allowed some nebulous inklings and ideas to form into actual thoughts and opinions.

The most interesting was that while I prefer playing Dota to League, I prefer watching League to Dota.

… [visit site to read more]

Community Announcements - SZ
Dota 2 returns to KeyArena in Seattle this summer from August 3rd through August 8th. All tickets will be general admission, which will cost $99 and give you access to all six days of the main event, where the top 16 teams in the world will compete for the Aegis of Champions.We are not directly selling VIP tickets this year, but stay tuned for details on the VIP experience. Tickets will be made available through Ticketmaster at two separate times next Friday, March 27th. The first batch of tickets will be sold at 10:00am PDT, and the last batch will be sold at 10:00pm PDT.Not sure when that is in your time zone? Here's a list of times to help you get ready for when the tickets go on sale:
  • Seattle: March 27th at 10:00 and 22:00
  • Rio de Janeiro: March 27th at 14:00 and March 28th at 02:00
  • London: March 27th at 17:00 and March 28th at 05:00
  • Moscow: March 27th at 20:00 and March 28th at 08:00
  • Beijing: March 28th at 01:00 and 13:00
  • Seoul: March 28th at 02:00 and 14:00
  • Singapore: March 28th at 01:00 and 13:00
  • Sydney: March 28th at 04:00 and 16:00
Still unsure when tickets will go on sale in your area? Check out this handy time zone converter.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Shaun Green)

The International 5 Aegis of Champions logo

Valve have announced more information on The International 2015 which, assuming you’ve already clicked on that headline, surely needs no introduction.

We already knew Valve’s Dota 2 tournament was being held between August 3rd and 8th in Seattle; now we know it’s returning to KeyArena, last year’s venue, and we also know when tickets are going on sale and how much they’ll cost. … [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
* In ranked matches, the average MMR of each team is now shown during hero selection, and the top MMR on each team is shown next to that player’s hero portrait.

* Fixed Keeper of the Light's Illuminate occasionally revealing Fog of War incorrectly

* Fixed Control Groups not saving for heroes that the user has not played before
PC Gamer
Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2, Smite, and wizards in general.

The International is less than six months away. That doesn't feel quite right—I'm pretty sure last year's tournament was two weeks ago, but whatever. It's coming in August, it's very likely to be back at KeyArena in Seattle, and a lot of fans, myself included, will be looking for the event to recapture a bit of the spirit that was lost in 2014.

That's not to say that TI4 was a bad event—not at all. It felt like a much bigger deal than the Benaroya Hall Internationals did. The scope of everything involved was larger, from the prize pool to the merchandise. But it was also a colder event, less intimate, which perhaps goes with the increase in size but does not necessarily need to. Having more fans in the building should make for a more energetic show, but TI4 moved in the opposite direction.

With that in mind, there are a few changes I'd like to see this year. The key thing, though, is that the Valve need to re-establish an understanding of what type of event The International is. Esports tournaments traditionally fall somewhere on a spectrum between 'fan convention' and 'sporting event', and Dota 2 has been no exception to that. In the main, however, it comes down closer to 'sporting event', with less emphasis on things like cosplay competitions and, over time, a reduced focus on the Steam Workshop or voice actor meet-and-greets.

TI4's biggest problems emerged when the 'convention' part of the equation started to intrude upon the 'sport' part. That's where I'd start.

Rethink the Secret Shop

If you needed any more evidence that cosmetic items have a strange, powerfully detrimental affect on esports, look at last year's International. The Secret Shop was a very slick, efficient operation with a two part ordering system designed to move people in with their money and back out with their stuff as fast as possible.

Even this, however, was not enough to prevent the line for the Secret Shop from occupying most of KeyArena's mezzanine for the full duration of every day. When huge chunks of your audience are standing in line for hats (actual hats, this time) rather than watching the sport they came to see, something has gone wrong. Unless you're trying to create a live-action version of the Year Beast event, in which case good job.

The issue is ultimately that the Secret Shop will always draw people away from the main event regardless of how efficient it becomes. The lure of hats is like a gas; it expands to fill the available space. The only answer, I think, is to turn the Secret Shop into a mail order service. You should order and pay for goods online and, in the case of International-specific items, be given a collection time at the event when you can go and pick up your stuff. If you miss it, have general 'free for all' periods at the end of the day when all of the games have been played.

The Secret Shop needs to become something that you jump up from your seat and do in 20 minutes between games, not something you commit an afternoon to. And that means giving Valve as much control as possible over how many people arrive and when. Ultimately, it'd be awesome if they looked into something like Disney's MagicBand. They have the resources for it, after all.

Every team plays on the main stage

I hope that this one is already in the bag: after all, this year's event will run for a full six days. The problem with 2014's structure was that it underestimated the value of pre-existing narratives to sport. They can be limiting, sometimes: teams, scenes and metagames change, and fans should be encouraged to change along with them and not expect the same 'el clasico' matches every year.

On the other hand, those events have a unifying effect that helps the community cohere. Even if it takes place in the opening stages of a long bracket, people will pack the stands to watch EG vs. Secret as they would have packed the stands for Na'Vi vs. Alliance last year. You need those moments, and you can't reliably get them if the majority of the tournament happens in a hotel a week before the live event.

Having a structure that guarantees at least one main stage game for every team vastly reduces the risk involved. Functionally, it insures the tournament against sudden changes—which is exactly what happened in 2014, when the competitive meta shifted a few times and left fan-favourite teams behind. I'd say that was less likely this year, but it's never off the table and the event needs to account for it.

Figure out how to make All Star matches work

They're such a no-brainer on paper, but it's weird how often just-for-fun 'All Star' matches fall flat. There's a lot to account for: players not being invested in the games, the audience feeling disconnected from whatever is going on in the booths, the games running too long, the games running too short, the showrunners having a particular gag in mind, and so on.

There are two I can think of has having worked well: The International 2013 and The Summit 2. In both cases it's because there's a strong link between the teams and the audience—either directly, in TI3's case, or implied by BTS' 'this could be happening in your house' deal.

That's harder to achieve in a larger arena, and it can be a real energy-sapper if the match enters a slow midgame—which is what happened last year. Nontheless, I don't think gimmicks are the solution—the solution is ensuring that the players are into it and that the audience get a sense of that. Part of that is down to the selection of players (which may well be down to a Compendium vote) and part of it is down to timing. If there isn't a time when it makes sense to have an All Star event without eating into players' schedules, it might not be worth doing.

All Star matches are, ultimately, part of the 'fan convention' part of the equation—and you can tell when it's being treated like an obligation rather than a fun diversion. Like The International as a whole, what I'd like to see in 2015 is an approach that identifies what makes these events special and makes a concerted effort to not only capture that spirit, but ultimately exceed it. The odd slightly-flat event is fine, but two in a row signifies a troubling loss of momentum.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

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