DOTA 2 has established itself as THE multiplayer online battle arena for more than a decade now. From its humble roots in Warcraft 3 up to the current iteration by Valve, the game has solidified itself and its quirks across the years. Compared to its competitors that have taken different approaches in their own MOBAs, DOTA 2 is one of a kind.
In the same respect, there are some things that haven’t changed since the mid-2000s. As IceFrog, the lead developer for both Defense of the Ancients and DOTA 2, the direction of the game has remained constant in terms of how the meta goes. Most of the game’s changes come either in the form of small, minor changes, or huge patches that take on a given version number.
In the huge changes that happen, especially when it involves hero tweaks and reworks, there is a changelog detailing most of the changes. Aside from that, nothing else is shared by either IceFrog or Valve. That has been the case for years, and with other MOBAs to compare, it begs the question: would special notes written by IceFrog ruin the patch notes of DOTA 2?
Because DOTA existed in an era where video game guides are still published in books, it is natural to assume that little discussion happens with the game despite its popularity. In addition to the fact that DOTA was more of a custom map than an actual game, there definitely was no community large enough to promote discussion and debate on the states of different heroes.
As a result, only a handful of people dedicated enough to see and test different mechanics, heroes, and item combinations could only know and understand the absolute potential of the game.
This also explains the few amounts of guides and databases for DOTA 2, which is also a handful. The client has in-game guides that show builds and skill orders, but there is little information about skill-specific nuances and interactions with different heroes. Compared to something like League of Legends, DOTA 2 players have fewer resources to rely on. At the end of the day, players have their work cut out for them.
If IceFrog started to share his thoughts on why certain changes happened, a number of things can happen.
Firstly, both newbie and veteran players get to have an insight on what goes on in IceFrog’s mind when balancing the game. Because of the diversity of the heroes and items, only someone as dedicated as IceFrog could be able to truly pinpoint even the smallest of balance issues that could get out of hand. DOTA 2 is an information game, and to truly understand balance, so many items and interactions have to be considered.
Secondly, this can guide players to understand the intentions of what IceFrog wants to see with these heroes once changed. That may sound pretty close to spoonfeeding the answer, but because of the complexity of the game, there is no single winning strategy for each hero, and there are multiple ways to turn the tables towards one’s favor.
Lastly, players will have something to discuss. Online communities are very active for the game, and it is definitely one of the places most video game players flock to in search of different information. Discussions and debate have become the norm with the ever-increasing influence of the Internet on our daily lives, and discussing game balance is definitely a part of that. Players get to freely talk whether the changes for a hero were right or not, and they can even raise it so that the developers can see it and decide.
If IceFrog were to share his thoughts on the changes, there are also some drawbacks to consider.
DOTA 2 has stood the test of time as the original MOBA, and until now, the recipe for their success lies in the plethora of interactions and ways to deal with the enemy. Each game always has a potential for learning new technology for players to use and master. If there are dev notes to share the thought behind the change, it already gives players an answer on how to play the hero now compared to last patch.
In line with the previous point, player creativity may be stifled. Because of the lack of resources for players, it is in the player to learn and understand the entirety of DOTA 2, with little to no assistance from outside resources. As a result, players have no choice but to experiment on each game. Like most experiments, curiosity is the main driver.
While it doesn’t hurt to become more transparent, the worst offender in the possibility of dev notes would be to ruin the tradition of DOTA itself. Even in the past, a link to the changelog from DOTA’s loading screen will lead only a list of the changes; after all, it’s IceFrog who still develops the game until today. Players are already used to the changelog simply listing what has changed, and therefore it is good to assume they have adapted and shifted their focus on experimenting with the changes.
Fundamentally speaking, patch notes and changelogs serve the same thing: to list the updates compared to the previous version. It serves what it is meant to do, nothing more and nothing less.
The DOTA 2 community, especially the competitive scene, definitely has no trouble with the fact. There is no single defining hero that is present in most matches, and hero competitive diversity is definitely a feat achieved only by DOTA 2. Most heroes present in the game are competitively viable, and it shows in the variety of the heroes shuffled around in Tier 1 and 2 tournaments.
Would you prefer if IceFrog shared his thoughts on item and hero changes?