For those of you who don’t know; the main Dota 2 client was updated to run on the Source 2 engine last week. It had been in beta for about 2 months and one would have thought that gamebreaking bugs would have been found in that time. Evidently not. I’m not going to list the bugs that are present but I want to talk about what impact this has on Dota 2 as a whole because, as a game, it has many aspects that aren’t just about people like me playing it in the evening for fun.
Firstly, and most importantly, the professional scene is the audience that needs to be thought of most when talking about glitches. The fact that people play games for their job is still something that amazes me, but, with that, Valve have a responsibility to constantly improve and streamline their game so that they can keep doing their job and aren’t hindered when trying to get better. While professionals won’t use the exploits that some do which can completely ruin a game for everyone, there are glitches that just happen. Some of them don’t matter but, when they do provide one team an advantage unfairly, it is slightly more important than in public matches. It’s the reason why drafting well is so important in professional games, which I’ll explain now.
Professionals, invariably, are at the top of their field of expertise. We can therefore take from this that professional Dota 2 teams all have reasonably similar skill levels, which vary with the hero they play. To show this we could say that, were 4 of m friends and I to play against someone like Evil Geniuses, the winner of TI5, even if we played our best heroes and they played their worst, they would still win because their raw skill is so much better. When Evil Geniuses played against CDEC in the final of TI5, if EG had played their best heroes and CDEC their worst there would have been no competition, but, since each team was relatively evenly matched in skill level, the draft becomes so much more important because it can give either team that slight edge. Glitches, of course, change this as an evenly matched game can become balanced through no fault of either side.
I feel that I may have over-explained that but I felt that it was important to get clear, but next, of course, is the public. Dota 2, according to the official Dota 2 website, had 11,655,014 unique players last month. They played, or, at least, had the option to play the main client in Source 1, a client that wasn’t bugged out or glitched and that had been established for a long time. Players knew how to use it and knew that it worked. Now they have to play the Reborn client which is chock full of glitches along with people willing to exploit them. If it was still in beta and people still had the option to play the functional client then this wouldn’t be a problem. People would also understand that you can’t fix everything or stay in beta forever so, if it mostly worked and just had a few minor problems, updating the client wouldn’t have been that problematic, however, while 2 months might sound like a long time to be in beta, it certainly wasn’t long enough, it appears. For a comparison, World of Warcraft’s expansions are in beta for 6 months. Say what you want about Blizzard but their games are usually very polished and well-rounded when they are released.
I think that, overall, the early update of the client is indicative of how Valve now thinks about its customers. It’s not quite on the level of how Microsoft announced the Xbox One but it’s getting there. The internet hasn’t even gotten over how bad an idea paid mods were yet and now Valve are so quickly losing the respect they garnered from years of producing critically and commercially successful games and from the usually excellent Steam Sales. It has a monopoly on online games distribution but it’s dismantling it by not moderating Steam Greenlight in the slightest and by producing no games of its own. It released CS:GO in 2012 and officially released Dota 2 in 2013, though it had been in beta for 3 years before that. Even companies like Valve, if they misuse their power, can and do fall, and I’m beginning to wonder how long Valve can sustain this. I don’t think it will go under, after all, monopolies aren’t easily broken, however, I doubt it will sustain this course for very long.