Valve crosses the Rubicon. Adds Pay 2 Win elements to DOTA 2 in the DOTA Plus subscription

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Slag

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Edited By Slag

DOTA 2 has been listing for a couple years now, after 7.0 hit player count has either treaded water or slowly sank ever since for a host of reasons. Not that unusual for even the greatest games. Growth can't last forever and DOTA 2 has never been good or even seemed to really care about onboarding new players. Eventually they were going to have to confront that (the new-ish Turbo mode inspired DotA's -apem was a very good addition recently) when they hit their player count ceiling.

Part of that changing reality meant that a change to the business model was probably inevitable. Eventually people probably have the hats they want, and the only way to sell a meaningful amount of new ones is to get new players. And if you can't get new players, then well you gotta sell something else.

Unfortunately Valve broke perhaps one of the key tenets of what made the game great. Today valve released DOTA Plus, an ongoing subscription that replaces the old Seasonal Battle Pass structure. All well and good so far. I want DOTA to be financially successful and if they need to charge a sub fee to maintain the game at a high level, so be it.

The problem however is the contents of what they are selling

The right hand column is what matters here. In particular
The right hand column is what matters here. In particular "Real Time Comparative Analytics" and anything that says "Suggestion"

And DOTA is now near dead to me as any anything other than an occasional social play.

What Valve has essentially added into the game is free Ai machine learning driven coaching and access to live stats on the fly during matches that non-paying players don't get. [EDIT: removed inaccurate information. Hat tip to @krayzeegloo. Thank you for the catch]

For full details of what is included in DOTA Plus see their webpage here: http://www.dota2.com/plus

Now Dotabuff, opendota etc all have been around and are available to players today, but unlike this that was something you could really only analyze outside of the match (yes you could have a window open with it, but it doesn't tell you what to do on the fly generally). And while coaching slots are built into the game allowing people to pay for outside help in unranked causal modes, DOTA Plus Assistant as far as I can tell is currently available in all modes, including Ranked. Not to mention it's a lot more convenient to use DOTA plus than coordinating a coach.

It also remains to be seen how useful any of this AI advice is but I don't see how you can argue that this doesn't at least intend to put free players at a disadvantage. If it didn't, why would anybody buy this? Why mention it as a selling point? Clearly they want to give the impression at least that this will help you win games.

Is it really any more acceptable if this only provides a small advantage? To me, it isn't.

To me this symbolizes that Valve doesn't value the principle of fair play enough that all successful sports operate on. It is a sign to me that going forward Valve may go further down this path and will likely focus new and best future features on subscribers primarily as they are financially incentivized to do so.

YMMV may vary if this bothers you, but I personally don't like to invest time into games that forces me to pay to stay competitive. It's why I don't mess with stuff like Hearthstone. You never know when they are going to jack up the price on you further and eventually price you out of being able to play well. And frankly I think it kills a game's sustainability when it does this.

I'm hopeful Valve makes some changes to this, but the fact they released this at all doesn't give me a lot of confidence that they understand or care about implications of what they've done here.

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Cameron

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I think it depends on what data it's using to make suggestions. If it's what other players have done in similar situations in other games, then I don't think it's a problem. That's basically just a substitute for knowing the meta. If it's looking at what your opponent is doing in your game and making suggestions about how you can get a leg up on them, then it seems like a problem. That would just be cheating.

As someone who has tried to play DOTA 2 several times (years ago) and fallen off because the community is terrible to new players, I think several of those additions sound awesome. The ability and item suggestions, as well as the hero pick suggestions would have made it much easier to get into the game. Still, I wouldn't pay them for features that make the game easier to learn. They should be throwing that at people to try to get new players.

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Slag

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@relkin: Yeah, I fell off the game after 7.0. Just didn't want to basically feel like I was starting over and have to relearn every hero because of talent trees. Felt like I was free I have to admit.

If you fell off the game and want to give it another go occasionally casually, give turbo mode a look. It's a really great way to get the best of the DOTA experience without having to spend 40-60 minutes per match.

@cameron:

Afaik (haven't had a chance to play a match yet), basically what you can see statwise is things like your opponent's net worth live. Which currently spectators can see and players can see in post game. You can very easily use that as a proxy for their relative strength to yours.

I don't know if the AI takes your opponent's build into account when making suggestions, that's a good question.

I have no problem with the features themselves. I've been wanting additional stats from DOTA for a long time. That aspect of this is awesome, no doubt.

I do however, have a major problem with in game tools not being available to all players. It should be a level playing field once you are in match. That's just basic fairness.

Maybe this doesn't change the outcome of more than 1-2% of matches (or less, who knows. Maybe it's 30%, maybe it's 0.001%), but it wouldn't be fair for paying players to start with an extra 200 gold either right? Because that's potentially what we are talking about here, paying players should be able to process this statistical information to get a kill advantage over non-payers at least some of the time.

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Three0neFive

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What a ridiculous overreaction. DotaPlus is absolutely not P2W; all the information it tells you is freely-available in the API and anyone who cares the slightest bit about improving their performance will be well beyond the point where its rudimentary suggestions matter. Preliminary reports from people that have used it suggest it's basically useless for anything above 2K, as there are factors of the meta that you just literally cannot measure through any real metric.

@cameron said:

The ability and item suggestions, as well as the hero pick suggestions would have made it much easier to get into the game.

See that's the thing, item & ability suggestions have existed in the game for years now in the form of the community-driven Guides system - they've just been things that players have to manually enable and update based on the current patch. This is basically just an automated version of that, adding onto it a "suggested hero" feature for drafting (which, as mentioned, will be absolutely useless at all but the most basic, tutorial-levels of play)

This is a monetized tutorial, nothing more.

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Acura_Max

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I am getting concerned about the state of the game. This month I have seen the number of in-game players drop as far as 300,000, which is sad considering dota had a peak of 1 million at one time. Perhaps it is because there hasn't been a battle pass in months. The game's population is usually more active when a battle pass is happening. I don't think they waited months upon months for this.

One hearthstone developer once said that every big change (expansion) represents a choice for the player to quit or continue playing the game. And this seems like one of those times. I hope dota reconsiders this for the sake of the game because i really do enjoy dota and would hate to see it die.

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KrayzeeGloo

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@slag said:

Afaik (haven't had a chance to play a match yet), basically what you can see statwise is things like your opponent's net worth live. Which currently spectators can see and players can see in post game. You can very easily use that as a proxy for their relative strength to yours.

I don't know if the AI takes your opponent's build into account when making suggestions, that's a good question.

Maybe it's just me, but you really don't seem like you read any of the information they released at all, just saw the bullet point list and assumed your way into being upset. According to the full information page that they put out (http://www.dota2.com/plus), the "Real-Time Comparative Analytics" work as such:

During the game, you'll have an updated HUD with real-time K/D/A, Last Hit, and Net Worth stats that let you track your performance compared to the average of other players on that hero in the same skill bracket.

It doesn't show you anything about your opponents' stats, just the average of your skill bracket which I'm assuming is based on your overall rank medal that displays on your profile (there's another graphic of a graph that has tick boxes for the different medals in relation to skill brackets). And in regards to the dynamic item builds:

For the draft, the Assistant offers item suggestions according to which lane you've selected and the lineup of heroes. During the game, you'll see three item build sequences to choose from, as well as a pool of other popular items. Suggestions are based on your lane selection and items you purchased so far. Decided to buy a different set of items because of a situation that came up in the game? Hit the recalculate button to see what suggestions it has based on your current item inventory.

Again, according to the actual words on their infographic-like website, it doesn't appear like it takes into account anything that your opponents are doing outside of their hero lineup. I agree that it's a slippery slope and that it could easily turn into something that's very Pay-2-Win, but I read through the entire page and all it seems like all they're doing is integrating things that the out-of-game client and websites like Dotabuff have been doing (such as win rates on talents/heroes and skill builds and whatnot), and presenting them in-client during a match, as well as surfacing some of those post-game stats in the middle of a match so you can more easily tell what part of the game you need to work on, or when you may be making poor decisions. Plus the dynamic item/build guides seem super rad and like something the game has needed for a while, considering how bad the default suggested items are in most cases and that most heroes only have one or two actually well-written, thought out guides.

We'll see. Time will tell. But as it stands, I'm very interested and look forward to using these new features. As someone who recently took a big interest in Dota and actively wants to get better at the game, but I just don't have the time or desire to sit and look at Dotabuff pages or watch my own replays en mass, these features seem like a very worthwhile venture on top of the other Battle Pass-like things included. Plus it sounds like we'll still get that sweet, sweet TI Battle Pass in the coming months!

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Slag

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@krayzeegloo: Hey thank you for the correction!

I read the initial blog announcement on dota2.com but somehow didn't notice the the second page (not at my gaming pc to see to test this out in game firsthand for myself). Lord knows I should have. I got the impression that the Assistant contained opponent information from a number of reports (apparently erroneous ) I saw on social media, forums etc since I was looking for more information about it. Gonna update the OP with the corrected information.

So that's definitely markedly less of an advantage thankfully, but I still don't think this is a level playing field. In-game Help is in-game help. Even if the tool is of little value right now, it does have some potential value and it is intended to have value to aid performance. This changes just the degree of the issue, not the substance. It's the principle of the thing.

And yes I'm certainly well aware of Dotabuff, dotapicker, overwolf etc provide similar information, although in many cases you have to mostly interpret those to apply them to your situation. I don't believe they automatically adjust to changing conditions either other than dotapicker. There is a key difference there though in that they weren't officially sanctioned or advertised by Valve and weren't something Valve was making $$ off directly. Even if this only meaningfully impacts low mmr players, I think it still matters. Probably matters more to them tbh, new players are also more likely than established to not know about those external resources' existence. And new players are what matters to the future of the game, every game has turnover and constantly needs new blood to keep the scene fresh. Plus once you get above a certain mmr, you don't really need to rely on meta picks and builds anyway. I personally never thought Pros would be affected by this much anyway.

I think this is super easy for Valve to make fair too. Allow everyone to have access to these in-game tools (like they do with Guides now) and prohibit them from usage during ranked mode. The Plus pass holders can keep the rest, then everybody's happy about this. And that's the way it should be.

If people want to pay for extra tools to improve themselves out of the match that's fine, just not fair in my opinion to have help during one that isn't available to free players.

Oh and fwiw, I'm glad you are enjoying the game. I hope your quest to improve that ole' mmr goes well!

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chilibean_3

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Overall the whole Plus thing just seems to kind of suck including features outside the analytics.

Right now the analytics stuff gives really bad advice but I'm sure it will get better but even then it sucks to see this kind of stuff being developed and then put behind a paywall. If you're going to do it, make it accessible to every player. I'm not sure I want it there at all though. An in-game guide that changes through the game to tell you what skills to go with and items to build is way less satisfying to me than reading how the game is going and how it will play out and doing something unconventional that has a huge impact.

I'm just so underwhelmed by this plus thing in just about every way.

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#9  Edited By Savage

There seem to be two large issues here: a change in monetization for Dota and data analytics as a new monetized perk.

The monetization change is from seasonal Battlepasses to a monthly subscription. Many Battlepass-purchasing players, especially high spenders, stand to save a lot of money with a flat fee model. Instead of buying multiple Battlepasses as well as levels for them, costing hundreds of dollars a year, a player can pay the $4/mo subscription and get it for less than $50/year. Or buy the discounted 12-month subscription to save even more. So, if you're already willing to spend money on Dota, you're looking at saving substantial money for the same content. For players who aren't willing to spend money on Dota, it's business as usual, with all gameplay-relevant content remaining free.

Here's a readable and insightful post from a former Free-to-play product manager on how this change represents a shift in Dota's life cycle from the Monetization phase to the Retention phase.

The second issue is the new data analytics that will be available to paying players. This is the more contentious issue, prompting accusations of pay-to-win, but I think that's both an oversimplification and a mischaracterization.

Much of what is mentioned in the infographic, under Plus Assistant, overlaps with disparate informational resources that already exist for Dota, making this more of an automated consolidation for player ease of use. For instance, item and ability suggestions have long been available through opt-in community guides, post-game analytics and global trends have long been catalogued by Dotabuff, and hero pick/counter-pick suggestions have long been offered by other sites. Once this info is in the game, players will be able to access it more easily than they can now. And players who are out-of-the-know on any of it will no longer be left out.

Beyond that, there's the detailed death summary, which may help people understand how they died if they couldn't tell in a chaotic teamfight, the lane setup suggestions, which hopefully will help people properly pair carries with supports, and the spectator win probability graph, which is for spectators, not players.

Lastly is the realtime comparative analytics, gives you info relative to your own play and your team's current situation, but I doubt it leverages any info from the opposing team that shouldn't otherwise be knowable, since that would be actual pay-to-win and Valve has been clear in their actions and speech that they think pay-to-win is not a good thing for a game or its community. Just last week, Gabe Newell reiterated Valve's opposition to pay-to-win, calling it "pernicious", in his presentation about Artifact.

Overall, these analytical tools help players in their quest to learn Dota better. Dota is a notoriously complex game that takes years and years of experience to really learn because you must build up an mental database of knowledge of what has worked and what hasn't worked over thousands of games. Analytics help expedite this, but don't replace it. Before you pick Skywrath mage support into an Io+CK, the analytics can point out that Witch Doctor and some other heroes have statistically higher win rates, giving you some informed options to consider. You can factor that info into your decision making process however you like, but it will never be a full substitute for thinking for yourself. Maybe you don't like or aren't any good at the highest recommended heroes, or you want to specifically pursue an unusual strategy, hero-combo, or laning setup--it's your call, but now you can make that call more informedly. And when the meta changes, the analytics will take time to catch up, so players who let the analytics dictate to them how to play will not get a leg up on anyone else; if anything, they'll be perpetually behind the curve as the innovators lead the pack. Analytics aren't the ticket to free wins; they're a tool to help motivated players learn from their mistakes and make, on average, fewer egregiously bad choices. And this is something that just might improve match quality for everyone in the game.

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Onemanarmyy

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#10  Edited By Onemanarmyy

When i saw the announcement my first reaction was quite negative, but after thinking about it a bit more, i realized that none of this stuff really matters to me. It seems great for newcomers though.

Simply seeing what kind of heroes are good against others & which items you should generally be looking at is something that you learn over time, but this is a huge shortcut for newer players of course. Even if you're not a dota plus user, you will start to see line ups that make sense and know where certain heroes are placed the most and what kind of items fits them. This might result in more losses earlier on, but might speed up the amount of time you need to learn the game. If you keep seeing Silver Edge being recommended every time you're up against a Bristleback, eventually you're going to put 1 & 1 together. I know i've been playing Viper & Luna for an obscene amount of games before i started to understand the game.

Don't really see how it affects average & above average players though. I don't remember when i was completely blown away from surprise, watching a replay. I can already see situations arise where the assistant keeps telling you that building a BKB against the Lina is really good (70% winrate!), while most people would rather choose for an early force staff to stay alive against their Clockwerk. Especially because force staff is a faster item, more multifunctional, and doesn't become worse over time. More importantly, BKB doesn't protect you from getting clockwerk hooked and being stuck in his cogs.

While it's nice for newer players to get a feeling of how well they're playing during the game, most people that are invested in the game, will have already learned to have a decent understanding of how well they're doing in the game. Note, you can be super farmed on your Abaddon, but that doesn't mean you're playing better than an Abaddon that realizes that sitting behind his carry and protecting him is more important to win the game! Apart from the carry & midlaner, the importance of networth is already quite debateable.

The item assistant is potentially a better version of the ingame guides, but it could falter in the same ways as normal guides do. Like most venomancers skill wards early on, but if you're in a 1v1 lane against Timbersaw, who gains armor with every hit he takes, maxing the venomous gale might be way deadlier. Does the ingame assistant recognise this lane match up and chooses accordingly? What if most people just follow their guides regardless of which hero they play against? Would the viability of that choice even matter if 90% of the players rather play how they always play?

Guides have been in the game for quite some time already, and people that want to, have always been able to check dotapicker to see which heroes are good against others. Just putting it all in the game makes sense for me, since the newcomers might not be aware of those sources.

Personally, i'll probably don't use this stuff unless there's some International edition with fantasy league and ways to be more invested in the tournament. I get that OP misunderstood the system somewhat , but this is only a huge deal if you're relatively new or fallen off of dota. If you're a huge fan of dota, the subscription is probably a cheaper solution than the compendiums and fits the (very busy) dota tournament schedule way better than the older compendiums.

I wonder what they do around the International though . Will they take 10% of the subscriptions for around +- 3 months around the international, and put that towards the prizepool?

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nasher27

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Hey, this looks great. The added bonuses seem great for a person who has stayed away from DOTA2 due to information/preparation overload. Having that information in front of me to guide me seems great to me. If I paid $X amount I would've expected this in the box, but seeing as the game is free-to-play, I see no real problem with them monetizing this.

Seems a little hyperbolic to react like this, but then again people have different views of things. Mine is that this seems like worthwhile purchase rather than a glorified cosmetic/experience booster bundle most "f2p" games tend to go with. Having a real system that is beneficial and welcoming is a very important thing. Especially when it seems like something you can easily grow out of the more time you put into the game.

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#12  Edited By imhungry

I've fallen off playing pretty hard but everything that I've read about what this provides is stuff that would have been pretty useless to me when I was actively following the meta. This is potentially a different conversation if we're talking about impact on newcomers but things like item build, hero and ability selections are really things that you don't need the stat suggestions on if you've kept up with the game or heck if you have teammates who've kept up with the game. Death summaries are essentially just translating information already available to you in case the effects on screen somehow confused you from seeing what killed you and the comparative analytics are really just a rough gauge of how well you're performing and even that isn't truly useful because your metric for success changes depending on whether you're playing 1-5.

Saying that it's 'AI machine learning driven coaching' seems to be really overselling it, because the only thing that appears to be adaptive is the hero pick suggestions which, sure could be useful but is also something you really don't want to be depending on a algorithm for.

I get that the mere scent of P2W makes things skeezy, I feel the same way too generally but the stuff added by the assistant really isn't that big a deal. Your fears of P2W are perhaps most well-realised in a match between complete beginners to the game, it'll provide an advantage there(and even then minimal advantage, since free players have essentially the equivalent in the guides) and thus your opinion totally has merit but IMO if you're serious enough about Dota that you're paying for this, you probably don't need it.

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gloomytangent

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Honestly, I think this is a huge net positive for the game. People are WAY overselling the analytic side of things. In terms of suggestions, it's basically an automated Torte de Lini guide, so he doesn't have to update his after every patch. That's the level of usefulness it's at. In game information, that's all stuff that you had access to, but was relatively opaque. It doesn't present any strategically important information to you, just compares your current stats to your 'goal' stats for your skill level. Pretty tame.

The progression hooks/overhaul of the gems system works well too. Granted, this is just my current hot take, but I quite like it.

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OwnlyUzinWonHan

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#14  Edited By OwnlyUzinWonHan

I've played a couple of matches with it and it doesn't seem very game-breaking or anything. I wish they'd save the challenges to non-ranked but for $4 a month it's not like it's a huge investment.
Also one of the guides suggested I build Aghs like third on Witch Doctor which doesn't seem too realistic most games so they're definitely not the best idea all the time.

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