In what may be a very anti-climatic launch for currently active Dota 2 players, Valve has given word that the game has (finally) gone gold. Considering that Dota 2 has been in “beta” since 2011 and already consists of the largest playerbase ever for any game Valve has previously released, this might strike some as a little odd!
Why is this big news? This month, over 3.8 million unique users have logged into the game, and earlier this year Gabe Newell admitted that Dota was “…generating 3.5 terabits per second during the last Dota 2 update,” and added, “That’s about 2 percent of all the mobile- and land-based Internet activity.” Not too shabby!
So what’s new with the game? The invite system has been removed, as you’d expect. For their part, beta users will receive a Bloodstone badge that comes in one of three levels and showcases how many players they had invited to the game. New players can now get the game for free directly from Steam. Also, new users will (finally!) have a new tutorial system that will offer a reasonable introduction to the complex game mechanics.
This of course is probably a good thing considering Dota 2 is an advanced MOBA-style game with a current pool of 101 heroes (and even more shop items) for players to choose from in their quests for victory. In that respect, there are not a lot changes with this launch, as heroes and balance updates will still be regularly added including parity changes to keep Dota 2 mechanics similar to those still being made in the original game.
Curious and future players can learn about the heroes and shop items inside the game or even directly from the Dota 2 website with plenty more excellent resources available from the Dota 2 wiki, Liquidpedia, Dotabuff, and still many many more websites. Unlike the majority of MOBA games, Dota 2 will continue to be free-to-play and not pay-to-win, or even “play-to-win” where players gain additional small advantages based on how much they play. All heroes, shop items, and drops are available from the start, with Valve having already made an official promise that all in-game store items will remain purely cosmetic in nature.
The launch comes literally one month before Valve’s third International Championships tournament, an international event that draws an insane number of Dota 2 fans to Seattle, Washington to watch the top sixteen teams worldwide compete for a considerable sum and prestige. The International 3 has already made news for offering the largest prize-pool ever for a gaming event, currently standing at a mere $2.5 million USD (and still rising!). Fairly impressive considering Dota 1 started originally as “just another” Warcraft III map mod.
One last thing worth noting is the Interactive Compendium, an in-game player guidebook that will follow along with The International 3 teams during the event as well as offering stats, votes, and other features for the players and event itself. It costs $10 in store, but is about to hit its 6th milestone goal. Owners of a compendium will receive a battle points bonus (increases item drop rates), a configurable courier that also gains unusual effects based on games watched, custom HUD skin, six different hero taunts, the right to vote on players for a special 1v1 mini-event at the championship, and is virtually guaranteed to reach the 6th milestone for an unknown immortal level item drop. Every $2.50 per compendium sale is also added to the total prize pool for the event.
Not everyone will be interested, admittedly, but this is a very sweet deal for Dota 2 players that will end with the conclusion of Valve’s The International 3 games. Purchase is not required to watch TI3 games however, as with all past International games players can spectate the game from inside Dota 2 itself for free without needing to purchase a ticket or even a compendium. I have to confess that in-game spectating has to be one of my favorite features of Dota 2, as viewers can configure the camera view to literally see exactly the same screen individual tournament players are seeing during live tournament matches or any other saved game replays, while still listening to the original broadcasters calling out the play-by-plays.