It's been more than a week since Dota 2 relaunched itself as a pseudo-sequel. After almost ten days of Monkey King oppression, it's time to take a closer look at why Valve decided to take the game in a different direction.
The reactions to patch 7.00 have been as varied as they've been numerous. The #Dota2 subreddit has been on fire since the update, with casuals and pros alike doing their best to navigate this drastically different game. Other than the new HUD—which had the Dota 2 community on the brink of armed rebellion, and really was overly simplified when the patch came out—it seems that 7.00 has been received positively.
Which is quite surprising, since the Dota 2 player base is notorious for being a proud bunch of hard-to-please conservatives. Most recently, when Roshan was moved a tiny bit and when the stun animation became a little more visual. These players don't want it easy, and the worst thing you can do as a Dota developer is to lower the skill cap.
A Modernized MOBA
Compared to League of Legends, Smite, Heroes of Newerth or Heroes of the Storm, Dota 2 was and still is the old school MOBA-game, new update or not. Some players like it that way, since they probably got into the genre through the original Warcraft 3 mod, and they want Dota 2 to be the stable classic they know through and through.
Patch 7.00 doesn't really change that, since the game is still the MOBA most like the original Dota. With that said, the first version of the Dota-mod was created more than 13 years ago, which is an eternity when it comes to video games, and to avoid Dota 2 becoming outdated, the game had to receive overhauls along the way, with this being the biggest one yet.
That might make no sense to the die hard fans of the original Dota, but times do change, even in the digital world, and the demands of the broad gaming community change with it. If Valve and IceFrog want Dota 2 to stay relevant in the future, they need to keep up with what's in demand. Like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm do.
The Populist's Approach
League of Legends has undoubtedly been the MOBA with the most foresight and ability to embrace the changing demands of the gaming community. When the game launched in 2009, it was Riot's decision to make the game free to play that ultimately led to the game's rise in popularity, and since then it has been their down-to-earth approach to their community which has paved the way for further success.
Riot has constantly kept the average player in mind when designing their game, which won them the huge, casual player base they have today. Such an immense amount of regular players guarantees a big market with an unknown potential for profit, which in turn attracts pros and big companies, creating the eSports scene we see in LoL.
The Road Less Traveled
Valve's approach has been different. They have, as mentioned above, always kept very true to their source material. In contrast to Riot, it has at times seemed like Valve were almost afraid to step out of the shadow of its predecessor and change Dota 2 fundamentally. Which has been both a good and bad thing.
It kept the faithful player base happy. They got the game they knew and loved in a new, beautiful package. They felt their company understood them and wouldn't compromise on account of popularity and money.
But one of the biggest problems with Dota 2 has always been its cliff-like learning curve. MOBAs are hard to get into, but Dota 2 especially so, and every player who's tried to introduce the game to friends knows that. Any number of guides or tutorials wouldn't change this, as most players just don't have the time or energy to learn a game that is so demanding (you need to know heroes, items, strategies on top of basic mechanics), intense (in practicality you can't really pause a game of Dota 2) and unforgiving (the community is toxic).
To ease out the learning curve, core aspects of the game had to be changed. Valve never really addressed this in the past, even though it's probably what's been keeping Dota 2 from growing more. It's even what kept the game from getting flawless reviews when it was released. They've never compromised on that account. Not until now at least.
More Action And More Speed
7.00 is bringing change in a way Dota 2 players haven't seen before, and a lot of that change seems to be focused on making the game more accessible and faster paced.
The duration of a single game of Dota 2 now seems to be shorter, making it easier to squeeze in a game or two on a weekday evening. This is partially because Valve lowered the experience needed to level up, ensuring faster max fighting potential and access to those game-winning level 25 hero talents.
That's not all though. Four new bounty runes, more experience from a Tome of Knowledge, more experience from denied creeps, shorter respawn times and illusions rewarding experience all push towards a speedier game. A lot of these changes also contribute to a less stagnant and more spikey MOBA experience when it comes to action.
Another reason for this is Dota 2's new map. It's a lot more open, and the implementation of more bounty runes, shrines and more ancient stacks paves the way for mobile and confrontational gameplay. It basically makes it harder for a team to play defensive, pushing the game in an aggressive direction and forces game-deciding fights sooner rather than later.
An Easier Way Into The Dotaverse
These changes makes the game reminiscent of the old Dota's easy mode, and they will likely appeal to many. Not just because each game is more action packed, but because there is far less at stake when a game is shorter. People won't feel as invested in each individual game and will be less likely to flame and more likely to just move on to the next quick game.
Which is also one of the ways Valve is helping out newer players—by potentially reducing flame. Another way is Dota 2's new Strategy Phase, which happens after picking heroes, and gives players a chance to pick a guide to follow, ask for help and buy items. A very welcome breather for more inexperienced players.
Also, with the bounty runes, hero talents and less required experience, it feels more rewarding to play support heroes, which is what a lot of people start out playing. You'll get more gold and experience than earlier, and the new talents will make you feel like your hero is progressing and contributing, even though you're an underleveled Rubick.
New players will undoubtedly find these changes useful, as they won't have to endure as much trash talk when they're trying to learn. It can be extremely disheartening to be told you're the reason your team lost (even though you might not be and you have a perfectly valid excuse regardless, being a new player) and that has definitely scared a lot of people away from Dota 2 in the past.
Opening Up for Non-Elitists
The whole ethos behind the patch seems to prioritize accessibility and fun, which is reflected in changes and even in the patch's name "The New Journey." It's an invitation to new adventurers.
And with the more serious part of Dota 2's community being seemingly positive about most of the changes as well, it looks like IceFrog and the rest of Valve's developers have actually managed to strike the perfect balance between the need of the elitist and the need of the casual; something that's very rare in video games.
What do you think of the new Dota 2 patch? Are there any implementations you're missing?