PC Gamer

Information posted by the SteamDB website indicates that Dota 2 could soon be running on the Source 2 engine. The site lists several "changed depots" for the game that reference "Source 2 Dota 2 Content" for 32 and 64-bit Windows, as well as Mac and Linux, in multiple languages.

The impact of that is currently a matter of speculation, but as VentureBeat explains, Source 2 is essentially an updated engine and toolset used for game and content creation. Dota 2 is built on the Source engine, so a move to Source 2 could mean new features, more advanced graphical options, plus a wider and/or more flexible range of tools for mod makers. Valve announced in March that the Source 2 engine will be free for everyone, with the proviso that any games made with it must be sold through Steam.

We've reached out to Valve to see what the ramifications are, and will update if and when we receive a reply.

Community Announcements - SZ

Immortal Treasure II has been released, bringing exclusive new items to Compendium owners. The Immortal Treasure II contains items for Anti-Mage, Disruptor, Faceless Void, Leshrac, Shadow Fiend, Sven, and Tinker. Increase your Compendium level to earn more treasures and complete the set.

Compendium owners will also receive the Wyvern Hatchling courier. You can give it a new look by increasing your Compendium level, with the Fire Style unlocking at Compendium Level 25, and the Gold Style unlocking at Level 200.

Head over to the Compendium site to see everything in action.

Meanwhile, you may have noticed that we've rolled out a special drop system for The International matches, including the Qualifiers. Major events in a match where we would have previously dropped a normal item will now drop an effigy featuring the triumphant hero, or a random team member in the case of a group accomplishment. The effigies will be built from a random material (including the rare Solid Gold material), and will come ready to be posed using the preset hero and equipped items the player was using at the time.

Live spectators will also have a chance to earn coins, coin charms, and Compendium points toward levels. Additionally, every Compendium owner will have a chance to receive an effigy celebrating the victorious team whenever a live match ends, even if they weren't watching. The higher your Compendium Level, the higher your chance to receive one of these effigies.
PC Gamer
Three Lane Highway

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

One of my favourite memories of The International 2013 was the phenomenon of the hidden Valve developer. Back then, the company seemed to regard the event as a cross between a holiday and a giant hobby project. Aside from the staff of Benaroya Hall itself—most of whom looked by turns delighted and baffled by what their concert venue was being used for—there were very few contractors involved in the running of the show. Valve employees swarmed in from Bellevue and picked up any jobs that weren't covered by venue staff or the external team of casters and analysts.

This was also the last year that there was a voice actor signing booth. It was popular, and I knew that a couple of the guys organising the queue worked at Valve. It's not the kind of thing you'd notice if you weren't already aware: just a group of dudes making sure that nobody skipped to the front of the line. Fans came up, got their stuff signed, and had their pass scanned for a chance at special in-game items. Nobody looked twice at the person holding the scanner, even though he happened to be the guy who wrote Half-Life.

I bring this up chiefly to highlight the way that the International has changed. 2014 was different—KeyArena, unlike Benaroya Hall, is designed to ferry large numbers of people from arena to food hall to merchandise stand and back to the arena without much external intervention. Venue staff picked up the rest. The Valve guys I recognised were either watching the show in one of the upper booths or working on the Secret Shop. It was a larger, more professional operation, as I imagine this year's will be.

I've been thinking about this in the wake of the rumour—via this Daily Dot article from Richard Lewis—that Valve plan to run the three Dota 2 Majors by itself. If you're unaware, the Majors were announced last month. They're seasonal tournaments designed to stabilise the professional Dota scene by providing players and spectators with milestone events to look forward to throughout the year, culminating in the International. The existence of the Majors suggests that Valve are interested in taking a more direct hand in steering Dota 2 as an esport. This is particularly visible in the introduction of 'trade periods', which will prevent dramatic last-minute roster shakeups for participating teams. This is better for spectators and showrunners but worse for teams, and therefore it's the kind of thing that only Valve have the power to enforce.

In the initial announcement, however, Valve made it clear that the Majors would be held around the world by third party showrunners operating on Valve's behalf—and given that Counter-Strike GO works this way, there's already precedent for this. Yet Lewis' article suggests that something has changed, and that Valve intends to move the entire thing in-house.

As Lewis notes, this could have significant consequences for independent tournament operators. It also, however, signifies a substantial philosophical shift on Valve's part.

It's not that Valve couldn't afford to run tournaments around the world—of course they could—but that previously, they wouldn't. The company's structure heavily discourages hiring people for a specific job or whose skills are not broadly related to game development. This is how that 'wheely-desk' thing is made to operate: everybody at Valve can, ostensibly, wheel their desk over to a different project and arrive with enough skills and experience to make themselves useful. It's not a system that easily accepts the addition of a whole new discipline or skillset, which is why the company's approach to support and community management has always been so spotty—hiring a dedicated crew for one or the other goes against this basic philosophy.

The reason Dota 2's writing team was looking after a queue at TI3 was partly because it was fun, but also because that's the only way that role can be filled within Valve's current structure. It seems unlikely that said team is now planning to spend their time running esports events around the world.

This means that Valve are either planning to outsource the running of the Majors (in which case it'd make sense to contract a third party that already does so, and Lewis' sources are wrong) or they're hiring an events management team. Unless they find a bunch of event managers who are also programmers and concept artists, this seems like a big leap for them to take.

For that reason, I'm taking the rumour with a pinch of salt. I'm not even particularly sure that it's necessary for Valve to run the Majors in order for them to have the desired effect: the professional Dota community will fall in line around the new events regardless of who is taking tickets on the door on the day. Nobody is going to opt-out of the new roster formation system if it means losing a shot at the International. If Valve really are running the show themselves from now on, then, it's a change driven by something other than practical necessity—one that implies that the company's perception of itself is changing. That, in and of itself, is just as exciting as a new set of Dota events. What's next? A Riot-style community management team?

Wait, never mind. That'll never happen.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jem Alexander)

Valve’s Dota 2 [official site] championship The International isn’t until August (though it already has a community-funded prize pool of almost $9 million), but is about to settle the four positions earned through regional qualifiers. Eight days of non-stop professional Dota 2 matches are kicking off on Monday, meaning very little sleep. A large number of prominent Dota 2 players, casters, fans and analysts are taking this opportunity to have join together in Bucharest to cast the whole event.

… [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
* Fixed a bug that could cause the last player on Dire to be unable to purchase items
Product Update - Valve
- The hero who gets a kill is now always considered as part of the AOE for gold bounty purposes
- Moon Glaives now properly kill Zombies (they now work like Flak Cannon and Split Shot)
- The courier's "Retrieve Items" ability and the "Courier Deliver Items" button will now work properly if you have items on the courier but no items in the stash
- Fixed a recent bug with Techies' Land Mines when flying units were nearby
- Fixed the smaller Mud Golems not leashing back to their camp
- Added missing portraits for unlocks for the Virtus Werebear courier
- Fixed VMT error for Vengeful Spirit submissions through the workshop
PC Gamer

Three Lane Highway

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

Last weekend I spent almost exactly two and a half hours in the International Open Qualifiers. I wrote beforehand that I'd have been delighted to get through the first round, and technically that's what happened. Technically. As it happened, our first round opponent didn't show up and we waited, waited, waited for the game that'd determine our next match to finish. It started late and ran long, meaning that we were sat on Skype for almost two hours building KSP rockets and tinkering with Invisible, Inc. Eventually, we got to play. Then, soundly outmatched, we lost in under half an hour.

I'd hoped to be able to roll into this week's column with a better story than that, but that's more or less the extent of it. We didn't acquit ourselves terribly, but it turns out that if you lose all three lanes and they have a draft that can teamfight early and push then it's pretty hard to fight your way back into the game.

We were disappointed but neither particularly surprised nor particularly disheartened. We had some very specific shot-calling and strategic problems to solve, but we understood them and they seemed solvable. A similarly positive line of thought was this: that we'd lost but understood why, knew that our opponents had much more experience of the game than us but could also see the road from where we are to where they are. And so on. There's comfort in seeing your failure in these granular terms, in picking out the little things that went well and appreciating the skill it took to make other things go so badly.

That's the note we ended on. Since then, I've been thinking about a lot. I've started to suspect that, in reality, that sense of a linear course between you and a superior opponent is actually pretty misleading.

For one thing, your ability to parse why an opponent has been successful is very much grounded in your own experience of the game—in the sorts of things you value, and therefore in your own conception of how you win. When you watch somebody play well and think 'I could do that', you're probably focusing on the aspects of their play that you already understand—i.e, exactly the stuff you don't need to learn.

That's a pretty disheartening thing to realise, particularly because it means that raw practice isn't a catch-all solution to an experience deficit. It's not enough to dump time into the game: you have to learn to invest that time into the right places. With that in mind, then, it's useful to identify the way in which the nature of skill changes as players become more experienced. Not 'improved'—changed.

I found this chart, by Redditor Ave-Nar, pretty interesting. Here's the original thread. It illustrates the changes in hero win rates both across different patches and across multiple skill levels—normal, high and very high in this case. There are some really interesting patterns, and these patterns tell us not just about the heroes themselves but how they relate to player skill.

Take, for example, Necrophos in 6.82 and Omniknight in 6.84. Both show a high winrate that declines linearly as you progress from normal to very high—a downwards diagonal slant. Although they are played in different positions, both heroes also have a similar impact on the game (tremendous teamfight sustain and laning presence) and are, crucially, straightforward to play. An Omniknight only needs to press R at the right time to completely tip a pub-level teamfight where half of the players have locked physical damage carries. A sub-par Necrophos can get away with spamming Q and using R to steal everybody's kills—the fact that he is also healing his allies and extending enemy respawn times as he does it is a bonus that the normal skill-level player doesn't really need to think about too much.

As a result, winrate declines with skill—because better players know how to work or counterpick both of these heroes, and neither of them have very many options when they've been outmaneuvered or outplayed. That linear decline demonstrates something basic: that as players get better, they get better at denying the enemy an easy way to win.

Contrast with Undying in 6.84. His pattern is similar to Troll Warlord in 6.83—lowest winrate in normal skill, highest in high skill and then a dip down again in very high skill. This inverted 'check' shape is really interesting. Undying in particular is a hero that requires a bit of expertise to use properly. You need to know how to gauge the impact of stolen strength on an enemy. You need to understand how to position a tombstone, and particularly how the many recent changes interact with his skillset—I still encounter people trying to counterpick Undying with Bristleback who look surprised when the quills do nothing to the zombies. In short, you don't need to be a great player to use Undying effectively but you need a fundamental understanding of how Dota works and how it has changed over time.

You also need to understand drafting, to a degree. You need to be able to both pick a partner for Undying and know where to lane him to do the most damage to the enemy's laning phase. All of this is what signifies a high skill player—and explains why Undying's winrate takes a huge leap between the two brackets.

Then, in very high, he falls off. With good reason—the best players can do all of the above and understand that their opponent is also doing all of the above. If an Undying pick is likely, a very good player will have planned for it. The process of getting better at Dota—as with other competitive games—is one of gradually transitioning from a focus on you to a focus on them.

Put it another way: as skill increases, player aspirations change. This is a generalisation, but the trend is for lower-level players to enter a game with a plan that they intend to execute. Land a lot of Pudge hooks. Play Void—whatever it is. They understand this plan in and of itself, they understand the hero and the items they need, but the plan doesn't take into account the enemy. Thing is, the enemy isn't thinking about them either. Two self-focused plans smack into one another and 50% of the time yours comes out on top.

Then comes outdrafting, whether by directly countering picks or simply by playing the meta. This involves a better understanding of the game and some sense of what the enemy's strategy might be, but it's still ultimately a series of decisions that are focused on the self. The composition of most pub drafts is, I think, the product of these two forces acting against each other: someone vanity picks, so somebody does an obvious counter-pick, and so on, where actual team-wide synergy is a rarity.

Improvement, then, is a matter of moving steadily away from understanding what you want to do—or what you might be able to do—and towards what your opponent wants to do. Towards figuring out what their dream looks like, and breaking it. It's never that simple, of course—if I understood everything that went into making that work, I wouldn't be shit at Dota. But thinking along these lines is useful because it gives you the shape of a solution if not the steps to get there: getting there is, after all, is a matter of time. It's not enough to look at an opponent and think 'that could be me'. When you have that extra experience, you don't want to want to be them. You want to look at the way they play and see all of the holes.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Product Update - Valve
- Nexon's South Korea matchmaking region is now available to all players.
- The client UI now displays creep health with full accuracy based on the server values.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Cap casting at ESLOne Frankfurt 2014

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 chatting to Dota 2 caster Capitalist about the upcoming ESLOne competition!>

I went to the inaugural ESLOne Frankfurt event last year. It featured one of the best games of pro Dota 2 I’ve ever watched (Alliance v Cloud9) and, as it took place shortly before Valve’s mega-tournament The International, it was an interesting opportunity to size up some of the competitors before Seattle. This year’s event will offer similar fare big-name teams and a chance to see how they perform on LAN in front of a massive audience but a lot has changed over the past year. Teams have undergone massive shakeups and enchanted mangoes, octarine cores and glimmer capes abound on the battlefield. In case you’ve lost track of competitive Dota 2, here’s caster Austin ‘Capitalist’ Walsh on the current meta, the teams to watch, and the relationship between casters and players.

… [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
* Haste rune duration reduced from 30 to 25
* Mekansm cooldown increased from 45 to 65
* Tether movespeed bonus reduced from 17% to 14/15/16/17%
* Rocket Barrage damage reduced from 11/15/19/23 to 8/13/18/23
* Bristleback Base Attack Time increased from 1.7 to 1.8
* Precision Aura's passive no longer has an exception for pseudo-heroes like Familiars (still affects them when cast, like creeps)
* Spiderlings Poison Sting slow reduced from 15 to 12%
* Holy Persuasion now provides a base HP minimum of 700/800/900/1000 instead of raw bonus HP
* Tombstone HP reduced from 200/400/600/800 to 175/350/525/700

* The fixed portion of the XP Hero Bounty for first 5 levels is reduced from 100/120/160/220/300 to 100/120/140/160/180 (then continues +100 per level as usual)
* AoE Gold Bounty, for teams that are behind, now has a small additional component that doesn't fully scale with net worth (100/75/50/35/25 for 1/2/3/4/5 heroes, scales linearly from 0 to 4k net worth difference)
* Small adjustments to AoE Gold (non-networth component)

1: 154 + 7.7 * Level
2: 115.5 + 6.6 * Level
3: 66 + 5.5 * Level
4: 38.5 + 4.4 * Level
5: 33 + 4.4 * Level

1: 150 + 8 * Level
2: 100 + 7 * Level
3: 40 + 6 * Level
4: 25 + 4 * Level
5: 20 + 4 * Level

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