Lets have a look at how the ever-changing landscape has shaped Dota 2.
A pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said “Change is the only constant”. A few thousand years later, that statement still holds true. Everything evolves over time, be it an organism or technology. Even video games have changed quite a lot of over the years. From Pong, the first video game ever, were made to masterpieces like The Witcher 3 and Crysis. And when we talk about Dota, boy has it seen some changes.
As we all know, the game we love today started out as a mod for Warcraft. It had pixelated graphics and minimum particle effects. Over time, Dota 2 grew to be one of the most beautiful MOBA to ever be made, and of course, one of the biggest ones.
But 6 years after its release, the game has been in a constant state of development and change. I remember when I started playing the game during patch 6.84. One of my friends who introduced me to the patch lamented about how there were fewer drops than before. Just a few weeks after that, Dota 2 was running on a new engine, and the game looked better than before.
More than just shallow
But the changes in the game have been more than just skin-deep over the years. One of the biggest changes that the game introduced was the change in the ranking system. From the usual MMR display system, it changed to a medal system. For scrubs like me, it was a welcome change, as the change made the game more relaxed. There was a lot less on the line for ranked games. But for the veterans, their hard-earned high MMR, they thought, would now be reduced to a mere medal. But Valve went about it elegantly, and the result was a new player-friendly, as well as a veteran-friendly ranking system.
In 2017, with the coming of PUBG, the numbers of the game started to dwindle. It unseated Dota 2 as the most played game, and that was a cause of concern for Valve. They countered it by introducing a new player-friendly patch, in hopes that it would help some players stay. After all, the game has a very steep learning curve and it is easy for new players to get overwhelmed.
Remembering the Battle Pass
Other than that, the introduction of Dota Plus and removal of the seasonal Battle Pass was the other big change. Even for its shiny rewards, it did not sit well with most of the community. I would say that this was a misstep by Valve. Even though it helped them get a constant stream of revenue with Dota 2, it took away all the hype that came with a Battle Pass. All hopes were pinned on the TI8 battle pass, and expectations were high. TI7’s BP was probably one of the best ‘til date, but TI8 BP was a disappointment. Dota 2 just barely managed to surpass the prize pool of the last TI. The seasonal Battle Pass had kind of a celebratory feel to it. If you are a fan, you would remember how excited you must have been for the coming of the next BP, so you could get your hands on new skins and trophies. But the Dota Plus subscription kind of takes it all away.
The Meta made and broke heroes, in-game and outside of it.
As the game evolved, the ever-changing meta also changed the way it was played. Dota from 6 years before, or even 2 years before is way different than it is now. New heroes have been added, and a lot of Heroes’ abilities have changed.
This has been extremely good in keeping the game relevant, as it keeps things fresh. The meta has also made and broken teams and players. Some players could adapt, some couldn’t. We see new players coming up from nowhere, like Topson, and new teams being formed. These meta changes have ensured that no one team remains dominant for long (whether that is what Icefrog actually intends is not known). So it isn’t just the game that is changing, the professional scene within Dota 2 also keeps changing because of these reasons.
All these changes are just a factor in the dominance of Dota 2. The real changes that have kept the game alive have happened outside of the game.
The first-ever TI had a prize pool of $1 million. And 8 years down the road, TI8 had a prize pool of over $25 million. It is the highest-paying tournament in the history of esports, and the high prize pool has made Dota 2 what it is today. But the is also Dota 2’s undoing. This is the exact thing that Riot and Blizzard have tried to stay away from. Rather than hosting a single tournament that would make a team overnight millionaires, both of them have invested in keeping the professional scene alive and robust throughout the year. This gives everyone in the pro scene a sense of stability.
The International’s prize pool is exorbitantly high. Before the DPC, there were certain tournaments held independently, and then there were Valve sanctioned Majors, and the final event the TI. As the game started growing in popularity, so did the number of tournaments. Before 2016, Valve allowed these third-party events to be crowd funded. But Valve took that away and now only TI is the event that is crowdfunded.
These tournaments could not have the prize pool anywhere in comparison to the Valve events, even during the time of crowd funding. Due to this, teams and players did not have a constant stream of income, and financial security was a distant reality for them. That is unless they win the TI. And even if they did, the allure of the high prize pool of the TI causes the players to have short term goals.
And the importance of TI has only increased in the past few years, as we can see from the DPC. All the Majors and Minors now revolve around the DPC points. Other tournaments are not given the same importance as that of the Valve majors. Because the DPC points are the ticket to the International.
This is well and good to keep up the hype surrounding Dota 2, and as we all know, it is working. But the toll is paid by the professionals, and the third-party organizers and teams that are trying to survive by playing the game.