As Valve has mentioned interest in developing the New Player Experience, I am writing a few suggestions that I think could not only introduce players to the varying layers and aspects of Dota 2 but also provide some ideas to keep the player interested and avoid feelings of being overwhelmed. Dota 2 is an exciting game that can feel enormous when it comes to playing each phase of the game but also in understanding its fluidity both in your role as a player and in coordination with a team. When playing with new players, I often get asked the same three initial questions:
- Which hero should I pick?
- What do I do now?
- What do I buy?
For question #3, hopefully Dota Plus and community-created Hero Builds are sufficient to provide users with as much information on how to play and build their hero for maximum value/efficiency and to reduce the amount of time thinking on decisions. Decision-making is something that is automated for veteran players but can actually take several important minutes away for overwhelmed new players. Having varying levels of knowledge will not answer the three questions above but it will give direction for orientation to the answers. Instead of seeing 168 items and over 117 heroes, new players will begin to see what most of us see: applicable situational considerations, our preferences and team expectations for hero picks and item purchases.
But for question #1 and #2, the lack of direction and freedom of choice can be more detrimental to a new player than viewed as exciting opportunity with no restrictions. On the other hand, restricting everything from the player and forcing them to ingest an endless amount of information before they can play can deter newcomers from wanting to get further involved or that it’s simply too daunting to play what is meant to be a leisure (and challenging) activity. For Dota 2, the only way to fully understand a game is to play, to win and to lose. That said, I’m hoping the New Player Experience will provide newcomers enough valuable information to permit them to play.
On a personal note, I felt inspired to write this after playing Destiny for the first time last week. I’m 80 hours in and still constantly googling questions.
Learn Tab – The New Player Experience Rehaul
In actuality, the Learn Tab is intended to be a hub for learning but lacks a lot of planned expansions. I recommend the following:
Part 1. Tutorial
- Goal of the Game, Ancient and Towers
- General Movement, Basic Combat, Camera/Movement Control, Attacking and Abilities (+ Talents)
- Leveling Up, How to earn Gold, Purchasing and Upgrading Items, Item Active Abilities
— Advanced Tutorial —
- Phases of the Game (Laning Phase, Mid-Game, Late-Game)
- Roles, Lanes and Hero Choice
- Hard Support
- Safe Lane
- Team Fights, Ganking (incl. Smoke of Deceit), Warding, Defending High-Ground
- Bot Games (with difficulties)
Though there is a lot of criticism for the tutorial, I think the way it separates the game into 5 parts is decent. It covers the essential parts of the game, how to play and even outlines the differences between the three different attributes (Strength, Agility, Intelligence). I’ve added more ideas for the initial 5-step tutorial but I also believe providing a second optional advanced tutorial for the more deeper mechanics of the game would be a healthy provision for new users to consider. I find getting into Dota is similar to learning piano: some just want to buy a cheap keyboard and see if they will like it while they learn on their own while most piano veterans will tell someone to purchase a proper 88-key weighted piano with private lessons from a teacher. I agree that one needs to dive entirely into Dota to fully understand and enjoy the game but I can also understand those who just want to test the waters and see if the game is of interest, even if they develop poor habits and learnings in matches.
Part 2. Encyclopedia
- The Basics
- Attributes (+ calculations)
- Gold and Experience (+ calculations)
- Armor, Damage Types
- Towers, Shrines, Barracks, Roshan, Runes
- Jungle Creeps
- Sort by expected role(s)
- Possible Lanes
- Scale of complexity (left to right)
- Sort by expected role(s)
- Items & Shops
- Filtering System that separates items by what they offer, Filters include:
- Health: Health Regen, Max Health Increase, Armor, Lifesteal
- Mana: Intelligence, Mana Regen, Max Mana Increase, Spell Amp., Cooldown, Manacost/Mana Loss,
- Attack Damage: Damage, Attack Speed, Attack Modifiers
- Resistances: e.g Pipe of Insight, Crimson Guard, Butterfly
- Disables: e.g. Orchid of Malevolence, Scythe of Vyse
- Movement Speed: e.g. Boots, Yasha
- Active Abilities: e.g. Silver Edge, Lotus Orb, Diffusal Blade
- Utility Items: e.g: Gem, Infused Raindrop
- Roshan Items: Aegis, Refresher Shard, Aghanim’s Blessing
- Filtering System that separates items by what they offer, Filters include:
- Buffs, Disables, Associated Icons
- Incl. heroes and items that cast these buffs/disables and heroes/items that can dispel them
- Base Attack Time
- Cast Point
If you’re not sure what the Encylopedia should include, head over to the Dota2 Wiki. Bottom-line is that this wide range of information should be directly in-game on one level or another.
I bolded some of the more unique suggestions and will discuss them briefly here:
At the moment, the current Heroes Selection Menu has three attribute categories and 2 filters: type and complexity. I believe that the system can be more robust and physically re-arrange the choice selection screen either through user submissions (based on ratings) or adding additional filters per role/lane and adding a scale of complexity (left to right). Dota+ already heavily suggests users to put heroes in certain lanes/roles (and Dota+ is usually bought by veteran players) but nothing is recommended for new players who need the most information to make ideal choices.
2.2 Items & Shops
Even after the re-design of the item shop, to really make sense of all the items is to play the game enough to understand what to get, when to get it and how reasonable is it to go after it (which changes depending how the game is going). People can understand concepts, roles and what aspect they need to improve on: “I need to stop dying, I need to deal more damage, I need to farm better”. But finding the corresponding items to go with these objectives is not very clear.
I recommend an items filter that not only helps highlight and filter items that aren’t within expected parameters but also helps classify items by an order that makes more sense. Players can tick different filters depending on what they need: e.g an item that provides some lifesteal, damage and some health.
On the one hand, I do recommend using a guide or Dota Plus to help navigate itemization to a general pattern (with some exceptions/situational purchases) but I also think that the faster players can identify what items do what for who or what objective, the better they can make swift choices on their own without the crutch of someone else’s expertise. If they do like using a guide, the filter will help players use guides as a tool (and think independently) rather than as a set of instructions to follow blindly.
It’s fairly evident that there are so many items that play off each other, counter heroes and do a variety of things. I think there should be a handy reference guide in the Learn section for this but also, I think there should be a list of indicated items or abilities that can rid of those disables or apply XYZ buff. It’s one thing to know why or who stunned a player’s hero but it’s another to know how to remedy it for the future.
Part 3. Challenges & Scenarios
- Last-Hitting Challenge: rotating with different heroes, lanes, vs match-ups
- Stacking & Pulling routines, Warding
- Harassing without taking aggro or taking damage (the lower the %, the better)
- Ability-based challenges:
- Dodging with Manta Style
- Blink Initiating
- Invoke Practice
- Hook/Mirana Arrow Accuracy Tests
- Meepo multi-tasking: how fast can a player get to level X
- Chen micro-managing: consecutively stun a hero
- Necrophos Reaper Scythe/Axe Culling Blade Thresholds
- Team Fighting Scenarios:
- Item decision-making Scenarios:
- Select which items will help a player take down a tower the fastest
- This hero has a lot of armor/health/magic resist: how does a player fight it best?
- Sniper is attacking your hero, what item should be purchased to most efficiently counter Sniper?
Both in games like Baduk/Go as well as in StarCraft there are fun scenarios and puzzles that someone can do to hone in on their knowledge and recognition of situations. I’ve provided some examples ideas that I think would be good. These scenarios help outline key areas that are important as mechanics to master but also have an element of learning and recognition, especially for new players to practice on without having to commit to a whole game. Dota 2 can add Steam Achievements, high-scores and more to add further gamification to this area of the client.
Part 4. New Player UI Filter
- Improved Item Shop Filter/Option
- Stronger item active indicator, especially upon death if user did forgot to activate their abilities
- Upon death, display videos or helpful hints for users to better understand their hero or their items/abilities and when to use them.
- If new player was killed by an ultimate, display video better summarizing their opponent
- Hero selection filters
- New User Flair in-game
This suggestion may be a bit radical but having a new player UI filter that players can choose to switch on or off (after playing the tutorial) can enhance the experience for new users. Ideas like having a much large shop tab with the filters I recommended previously or re-arranging the hero selection screen accordingly can be useful for new players, but not obligatory if they feel like it. Different players learn at different speeds and being able to decide whether one wants a unique UI to understand the different parts of the game might be valuable/useful.
The New User Flair is to help players identify that a player is relatively new. This can have either two effects: players identifying another player as new means the team will be more lenient and understanding. This may also help reduce frustration/confusion as to why the newcomer is not performing as well as expected. Or the flair can cause targeted bullying because the team knows a player is new and are frustrated with being paired with someone who doesn’t understand the game at the same level.
Part 5. Coaching
I felt the Coach mode during the Battle Pass was good. It would be nice if players who coached were also awarded a badge or some sort of recognition for their involvement. Another suggestion would be to make it party-base rather than entire team as teams may not be susceptible to advice but a party who opts in may be more willing.
Coaching could be more interactive, allow coaches to build out recommended items for a player, highlight key items, telestrate on the ground while also appearing on the map. Allow players to see the coach’s cursor or not for further indication.
Coaching can also be done for party viewing of a match or even in replays: set up bookmarks/notes on areas the coach wants the player to pay attention to. Maybe allow viewers to watch a replay with a coach through the coach’s perspective, etc.
Part 6. Esports
In my opinion, Esports is the pinnacle of great marketing for Dota but it falls a little short for newcomers and friends of Dota fans. It’s a pipe-dream that we can hope for tournaments to afford another stream for newbie specifically but it’d be nice if those who do a remote newcomer stream were provided more tools to help introduce players to the game.
Whenever I am with a colleague at The International or another major tournament, they often enjoying watching the game with me as I explain all the heroes, their abilities, how their engages fights, how they want to finish the game (fast/early? 4-protect-1, etc.) and explaining why this item is so important and what this hero aims to do. In traditional commentary, we see all of this overlooked because we all usually know and understand why these items or heroes or line-ups are drafted but for new players, it isn’t so clear-cut. Even being able to slow the game down during team-fight replays to be able to better highlight what is happening, immensely eases new viewers into enjoying Dota. It’s no different in other games I play and watch like League of Legends or Overwatch.
Part 7. Improved Guides System
- Better statistics
To be honest, there isn’t a lot more to do with the guides system. Co-authoring and usage statistics are suggestions to either reduce the workload for certain guide-creators or to improve guide selection for new users so the first one at the top isn’t picked just because it has the highest subscription count and games played (these indicators are mostly due to those guides being around the longest). Incentivization is a common recommendation for community contributors. In Team Fortress 2, community-centric projects like the TF2Wiki and KritzKast received memorabilia for their involvement in the game-scene.
I don’t expect any or all of these suggestions to be implemented but I hope that this extensive list of ideas, breakdowns and reasoning will give the developers some of their own ideas or how to better execute them. I play a lot of competitive or multiplayer games and it always ends up being a coinflip if the tutorial will be overbearing, completely absent or just right. I learned how to play DotA almost 14 years ago and I can still recall some of the most difficult parts of the game.